TAYLOR, Graeme MacDonald

Author Tags: Environment

Graeme Taylor is the coordinator of BEST Futures (www.bestfutures.org), a family project applying evolutionary systems theory to research and model societal change. He is also the author of Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World (New Society, 2008). A researcher, lecturer and speaker, his current focus is on designing and testing processes for accelerating constructive social transformation.

Graeme Taylor has been a social activist since he began working with social justice and peace organizations in the early1960s. Following a career as an emergency paramedic in British Columbia, he completed a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Management. In 2009 he was a Ph.D. candidate at the Griffith School of Environment in Brisbane and an Honorary Research Adviser to the Australian Peace and Conflict Centre.

Author's City: Victoria BC and Brisbane, Australia
Date Of Birth: May 24, 1947
Place Of Birth: Washington, DC
Arrival in Canada: 1951
Arrival in BC: 1975


Evolution's Edge: the Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, 2008)

[BCBW 2008] "Environment"

It’s about the planet, stupid

Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of our World by Graeme Taylor (New Society $24.95) won GOLD in the 2009 Independent Publisher's (IPPY) Book Outstanding Books of the Year Awards in the category "Most Likely to Save the Planet”.

By the year 2050, there will be 9 billion people sharing the resources of the planet and humans will have to reduce average global per capita use of natural goods and services by 40% from 2003 levels. The globalization of the American consumer society is therefore not possible.

These are the parameters for Graeme Taylor’s Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of our World.

If the trillions of dollars spent by the United States in Iraq had instead been invested in developing renewable energies, Taylor suggests the U.S. would be well on the way to creating a more efficient, prosperous and sustainable economy and freeing itself from dependence on expensive energy imports.

“People need to become aware that the transformation of the global system is a requirement, not a choice,” writes Taylor. “Living in a continually degrading world where the climate becomes hotter and more erratic each year, and where global crises grow progressively worse, is not an option. This future would be a nightmare from which we and our children could not awake.”

One anecdote (almost) says it all: In 1944, the US Coast Guard introduced 29 reindeer to St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea. The original idea was to provide meat for American troops in the Pacific, but after World War Two ended, the island was abandoned to the reindeer. Conditions were ideal for the reindeer as there was plenty of lichens available for winter grazing and no predators. By 1957 the herd had grown to 1,350, and by 1963 to 6,000. Then the population suddenly crashed. A 1966 count found only 42 reindeer still alive. The reason for the die-off was that the exploding population had eaten all the lichens on the island. Unable to find anything to eat under the snow, most of the reindeer starved in the severe winter of 1963/64.

This cycle of accelerating population growth, then expansion past sustainable limits, then die-off is frequently found in ecological systems. Going too far and accidentally exceeding limits is called overshoot.

Overshoot does not have to result in a catastrophic collapse. Unlike the reindeer on St. Matthew Island, humans can recognize the limits to growth, change our lifestyles, restore damaged ecosystems and create a sustainable economy.

When collective will exists, rapid change is possible. During World War II, for instance, millions of female workers contributed to the war efforts and the Allies united to defeat fascism.

Now humanity must unite to create a peaceful and sustainable world.

Books like Natural Capitalism have argued that there is no fun-damental clash between capitalism and environmentalism, and that it is in the interests of businesses to create products and provide services in clean, efficient and sustainable ways. In fact, many people believe that green technologies are the best business opportunities on the planet.

“However, this does not mean the current global economy can be made sustainable,” Taylor writes. “Market forces are good at producing and distributing goods at the cheapest possible price (where there is open competition), but they are not designed to take into account social and environmental goals.”

Bill Gates agrees. “We had just assumed that if millions of people were dying and they could be saved, the world would make it a priority to discover and deliver the medicines to save them,” he told Time magazine in 2007. “But it did not.” Now the Microsoft co-founder is donating much of his time and money to educational and health projects. We are not reindeer.


[BCBW 2009]