The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (Hardcover)

Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

By James Gustave Speth

Yale University Press, 9780300136111, 320pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2008



How serious are the threats to our environment? Here is one measure of the problem: if we continue to do exactly what we are doing, with no growth in the human population or the world economy, the world in the latter part of this century will be unfit to live in. Of course human activities are not holding at current levelsthey are accelerating, dramaticallyand so, too, is the pace of climate disruption, biotic impoverishment, and toxification. In this book Gus Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning and a widely respected environmentalist, begins with the observation that the environmental community has grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to decline, to the point that we are now at the edge of catastrophe.Speth contends that this situation is a severe indictment of the economic and political system we call modern capitalism. Our vital task is now to change the operating instructions for today's destructive world economy before it is too late. The book is about how to do that.

About the Author

James Gustave Speth, a distinguished leader and founder of environmental institutions over the past four decades, is dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He was awarded Japan s Blue Planet Prize for a lifetime of creative and visionary leadership in the search for science-based solutions to global environmental problems. He lives in New Haven, CT."

Praise For The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

"Speth is a maestro—conducting a mighty chorus of voices from a dozen disciplines all of which are calling for transformative change before it is too late. The result is the most compelling plea we have for changing our lives and our politics. And it is a compelling case indeed."—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
-Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

"Honest, insightful, and courageous. Dean Speth draws on his formidable experience and wisdom to ask why we are failing to preserve a habitable Earth. His conclusions are cogent, revolutionary, and essential."—David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College. Author of Design on the Edge and Earth in Mind

-David W. Orr

“When a figure as eminent and mainstream as Gus Speth issues a warning this strong and profound, the world should take real notice. This is an eloquent, accurate, and no-holds-barred brief for change large enough to matter.”—Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy and The Bill McKibben Reader

-Bill McKibben

"An extremely important book both for what it says and for who is saying it. The steady transformation of a solid, pragmatic, progressive negotiator into a ''radical and unrealistic'' oracle concerned with the fundamental nature of modern economies is an important event."—Richard Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley

-Richard Norgaard

"One can scarcely choose a more important or timely subject than this one. Speth writes about it with passion and conviction, and a touch of humor."—J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University

-J. R. McNeill

“A powerful and ambitious attempt to characterize the changed strategies environmental organizations need to adopt to become more effective. This book challenges many things that would seem to have political immunity of a sort—among others, corporate capitalism, the environmental movement itself, and the forces of economic globalization.”—Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief, Science Magazine

-Donald Kennedy

"In this magisterial and hopeful book, Speth charts three compelling journeys—his own path from reformer to deep systems analyst, environmentalism''s trajectory from inside player to social movement, and the nation''s emerging great transition from a way of life rooted in economic scarcity to the discovery of nature''s abundance. This is a profound book which deserves our deepest attention.”—Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College, and author of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don''t Need
-Juliet Schor

"Gus Speth leads us to the formidable bridge we must cross -- an epic transformation in how we live, consume and produce -- to halt capitalism''s destructive forces and to improve the human condition.  A calm and persuasive guide, Speth is infused with the human optimism always needed for great historic shifts."—William Greider, author, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
-William Greider

"What a delight to read Gus Speth''s'' new book, which no one else could write but all will admire, stunned by his remarkable talents. The book opens vast new opportunities for thought and discussion in science and public affairs and will undoubtedly long stand as the classic that it is."—George M. Woodwell, Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Research Center

-George M. Woodwell

“Gus Speth’s critique of unbridled capitalism is riveting and haunting, and his solutions are poetic and inspiring.”—Devra Davis, author of The Secret History of the War on Cancer and When Smoke Ran Like Water

-Devra Davis

“In The Bridge at the Edge of the World, James Gustave Speth gives us new lenses with which to see what we have done to our environment and, more important, to see what we can do to restore it. He challenges us all to act not for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. In particular, he takes on the most powerful guardians of the status quo—our mindsets. The bridge he hopes to construct has its bridgehead firmly based in today, because Speth asks us to think about it and then to use our creativity, imagination, and the power of common purpose to act to restore the environment and create a healthier world.”—Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier, Province of British Columbia

-Honourable Gordon Campbell

"Gus Speth is one of the leaders in trying to steer humanity on a course to sustainability, and this is his most important book to date.  Read it, and then take some action."—Paul R. Ehrlich, author with Anne Ehrlich of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment

-Paul R. Ehrlich

The Bridge at the Edge of the World may be the most concise analysis of the current state of the natural world and what might be done about it."—Brooke Williams, Planet News
-Brooke Williams

"Acclaimed environmentalist Speth asserts that our capitalist economy, with its emphasis on continuous robust growth, is at loggerheads with the environment. He minces no words as he writes that to destroy life as we know it, all we have to do is ''keep doing exactly what we are doing today.''"—Booklist 

"What is needed, Speth argues, is a radical change in the economic sysytem that takes into account the environmental costs of doing buisiness and refocuses society on building more sustainable ways of living."—David Funkhouser, Hartford Courant
-David Funkhouser

"Contemporary capitalism and a habitable planet cannot coexist. . . . This book is an extremely probing and thoughtful diagnosis of the root causes of planetary distress."—Ross Gelbspan, Washington Post Book World  

-Ross Gelbspan

"With candor, cadence and clarity, Speth presents a compelling case for prompt action, making this book a must-read. . . . Like an evangelist, Speth draws not just on facts, but anecdotes, quotes, even poetry to make his point."—Le-Min Lim, Chicago Tribune
-Le-Min Lim

"The Bridge at the End of the World was an epiphany for me. . . . I see it as a guide for moving toward cultural, social, and environmental equity that could in turn lead to balanced sustainability in the planet''s future."—John D. Peine, Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy
-John D. Peine

“With candor, cadence and clarity, Speth presents a compelling case for prompt action, making this book a must-read on the subject.”—Bloomberg News

“Are these solutions hopelessly idealistic and impossible to achieve? Speth’s passionate argument is convincing—it can be done, but it will require a great deal of effort.”—The Futurist

“His call for a radical departure for the [environmental] movement’s current strategy comes from the ultimate environmental insider”—The Nation

“Speth’s indictment of the present state of our politics is precise and perceptive. . . . He urges a bold and broad agenda for systemic changes.”—Bioscience

"James Gustav Speth...leads us to a bridge at the edge of the world--an epic transformation of the way we live, produce, and consume. This is a fantastic, highly topical and potentially important book. It should widely be read, and translated into other languages."--Udo E. Simonis, Environmental Information + Environmental Policy
-Udo E. Simonis