Some books and reports
Generous Respect: The next story of humanity
This short book is the story about the ongoing shift in the way we all look at the world, and thus organize our world. All of us alive today grew up during the reign of the economic narrative, which tells the stories of our lives as a series of transactions, whose ideal is growth and whose behavior is to maximize profit. It’s promise, which is very attractive when you are dirt poor, is ever-growing wealth. It shapes the way we see, act, dream and hope. It limits and confines what we think is possible. Lately, though, that frame is showing signs of wear and tear. Ending in Tomáš Sedláček’s indictment that “the only thing remaining for us is growth – growth which knows nothing but itself, because it has no goal to measure. The feeling of aimlessness binds it to meaninglessness and homelessness” (Tomáš Sedláček, 2013, Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, Oxford University Press).
Once old frames have lost their ability to help us find meaning in our everyday lives, a new one emerges. We are witnessing such an emergence of a new frame, built on relations, generosity and respect. This book is about the possibility to change our lives and our societies that both have become empty, wasted and mean. This book is about hope.
The short book is my contribution to the conversation about what kind of life we might want to live. Read, enjoy and criticize it - but above all use it as a trigger to ponder what kind of life you and your loved ones may want to live. And then live it.
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Scenarios: How to create them and Why you should
This little booklet about scenario planning has such a friendly appearance. The moment I heard about it, I knew I had to read it. This is a short story of indeed, how to create scenarios. Ulrich Golüke is impressed when working with young people. So he had them in mind when writing this book. Right in the beginning of it, he makes some very valuable statements about scenario planning. Despite the long history of scenario planning, it is still a complex instrument and difficult to use for many organizations. Here comes Golüke’s book, telling you step by step how this methods works from a practitioners’ point of view.
I have found it very interesting to take a look in Golüke’s kitchen and see how he does the cooking job in his projects. First of all, I am very impressed, and perhaps a bit envious, about the intensity of the projects and his way of working. Thirty or more interviews, word by word transcriptions, multiple day workshops in each phase. Yes this is a very thorough method, almost the ideal world of scenario planning. But also for more condensed projects with time and budget restrictions, there are lessons here. Golüke shows how to involve a group in finding meaning, the signal if you like, in a plethora of data from interviews and group sessions. He explains how to move the process through the subsequent stages and keeping everybody on board. His description of the final stage of considering strategic responses in the light of the scenarios is very detailed and useful. Freija van Duijne
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I just finished the book. It is a short, but very powerful book. I am still digesting, and will probably continue for many days, weeks, months, and hopefully, years to come.
I had a great time to read your book. Slowly, as you suggested, and fully enjoyed it. I was fascinated by many aspects: the content which is challenging, provocative and terribly stimulating, the richness of facts, quotes, comparisons which make your issues and messages so real and impressive, your style, which may not always be easy reading, but I like it a lot: short, to the point, surprising, intellectually demanding. What more can I say but: I have to read it again (and again) to still better understand! F. Sauerländer
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure I agree with all of your points, but the general principle is absolutely right: we have not yet come to terms with having too much. I’ve actually lent it to my brother – he tells me he is suffering ‘burn out’ in his high stress and high pay job – I recommended your book by way of remedy. M. Lewis
An optimistic and provocative view of society’s options for change … The options you show are real … truly extraordinary. S. Meinert
I am touched, moved and inspired by your words. Your thoughts serve as important validation for the urges I am feeling to follow my heart and not my wallet. It is very scary, but equally liberating. C. Norton
I have just finished reading another ‘must-read’ book. Ulrich’s book, I believe, comes from – or from very close to – a sentinel experience. Certainly I feel ‘frames shifting’ in my mind as a result of reading his book ... Ulrich’s book gives context, meaning, ‘colour’ and detail to the preferred ‘New Sustainability Paradigm’. But Ulrich’s book is different; it is essentially a personal intellectual journey recounted in conversational style, making it a powerful invitation to envision this desirable future with its liberating changes and daunting challenges. E. Heij
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We live in a visual world, hence we need to understand how to visualize data
Algorithms rule our world, time to learn about their down-sides
The unspeakable cruelty we humans are capable of
What made the economic story possible
What human hubris can lead to
Five wonderfully written 'case studies' by an eminent historian about how societies knowingly, consistently and deliberately do things that harm themselves
An introduction to understanding time as a rich, subtle and nuanced concept
An introduction to systems thinking without ever using the word "system"
A sorely needed read on what is science and what is not, heavy going at times though
Using science as an example, a book that talks about how and why paradigms change
How to live abundantly, even in times of war, even as a stateless refugee
A rich story about how an entire society unravels in the course of a few weeks
A grand sweep of energy in world history
Sweeping like Smil's Energy in World History, but much broader than energy; fascinating data
How some people never give up
REPORTS and PAPERS
WBCSD Global Sustainability Scenarios
Although created in 1997, still very valid and challenging. Introduced the world to F.R.O.G., Jazz and GEOpolity.
Energy 2050: Risky Business
«Drilling down» from the global FROG, JAZZ and GEOpolity worlds, this reports looks in detail at energy in these three worlds.
The Wizard of US
Using the imagery of the Wizard of Oz, a little booklet that tells how to get conversations about sustainability going.
Forecasting turning points in shipping freight rates: lessons from 30 years of practical effort (with J Randers)
We argue that it is possible to explain much of the history of the world’s shipping markets since 1950 as the interaction of two balancing feedback loops: a capacity adjustment loop which creates a roughly 20-year wave, and a capacity utilization adjustment loop which generates a roughly 4-
year cycle. We show how this insight has been used rather successfully since the early 1980s for practical forecasting of turning points in freight rates and the “sentiment” in the shipping market 1–4 years ahead of time. The basic mechanisms in the shipping system create a strong “deterministic backbone” which is visible through the exogenous noise, and hence predictable with useful precision. Our experience leads to a number of questions concerning system dynamics best practice for future research. Syst. Dyn. Rev. 23, 253–284, (2007) DOI: 10.1002/sdr.376
A comprehensive Theory of the Pathogenesis of Alcoholism (with D Meadows and R Landeen)
Measured by the number of meetings and publications on the subject, the current knowledge of alcoholism is substantial and increasing; yet one finds that the new knowledge, the numerous meetings, and all the federal dollars spent on addressing the problem of alcohol abuse have had an insignificant impact on the prevalence of alcoholism. Recidivism rates are still 30%-70%, and estimated costs of alcohol abuse rose to about $40 billion in 1975 in the United States alone. The frustrating lack of progress can be attributed to the lack of a comprehensive theory of alcoholism. Most theories, or models, of alcoholism are like the descriptions of an elephant by blind people: they capture reality, but only partially.
To improve on the current state of knowledge, we have taken a fresh look at the life cycle of a prototypical alcoholic. Guided by a general systems perspective, we have developed a comprehensive and internally consistent theory of individual alcohol addiction. The theory includes the major physiological, psychological, social, and cultural factors that are believed to cause and sustain alcoholism. It explains the four major modes of alcohol consumption: social drinking, alcoholism, recovery, and relapse. We also use the theory to investigate several treatment modalities:
We argue that personal distress, which is an intolerable deviation of reality from some personal norm, leads an individual to search for a behavior that can reduce the level of distress. Consuming alcohol is one such behavior. From our analysis, we draw the following three conclusions:
I. Decisions about the choice of behavior are made individually; hence sociodemographic variables alone are poor predictors of drinking behavior.
2. Alcoholism alters substantially every aspect of the alcoholic’s body and environment; hence, treatment must deal with the entire person as well as his or her milieu.
3. Effective treatment of alcoholism requires reducing the level of distress. This is best accomplished by eliminating the cause of distress or by improving the person's coping skills. Less attractive is substituting less destructive behaviors for alcohol consumption; worst is merely to change the agent of addiction.
This chapter imposes two demands on the reader. The first is the willingness and ability to visualize the life span of an individual drinker as the continuous evolution and interaction of myriad social, psychological, and physiological factors. The second is the ability to move with ease from the general to the specific and back. Since our readers, in most cases, have a large fund of patient-specific knowledge and experience, we restrict ourselves to providing the general theory and some illustrations on how to bridge the gap between the general and the specific.
Download the full chapter as pdf. It has been scanned and is of poor, but readable, quality. The chapter appeared in The Biology of Alcoholism, Volume 6: The Pathogenesis of Alcoholism, Psychosocial Factors, edited by B Kissin and H Begleiter, Plenum Press, New York and London, 1983