The environmental crisis is the overriding social issue of our time, and the subject of my new book Embracing Limits: A Radical and Necessary Approach to the Environmental Crisis.
RADICAL MEASURES ARE NECESSARY
If you’ve ever wondered where we’re headed, and what a truly sustainable future might look like—Embracing Limits is the book for you.
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Today’s civilization is like a kid with a credit card, thinking the party will never end. Politically speaking, there are no adults in the room. Perhaps there never were.
Climate change is only the best known of the many environmental crises that are undoing human civilization. The area of land turned into desert or otherwise rendered unfarmable by humans is now larger than the area being farmed—which is itself being destroyed by the very methods used to farm it. These methods depend heavily on fossil fuels every step of the way.
Meanwhile, the ever-more difficult extraction of the ever-rarer resources needed to manufacture the ever-expanding number of products our civilization requires (or desires) to keep itself going cannot be sustained. We live on a finite planet with finite resources—a fact that the world’s economies, based as they are on the concept of infinite expansion, refuse to acknowledge.
Recycling bottles, putting up windmills, and driving electric cars isn’t going to cut it. We’re told it will, because it’s comforting to think that small changes will save us. We, all of us, need to make massive changes, now. Nothing less will do.
This book details the challenges we face, and the solutions that may save us.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
“Just as Akers suggests in this book, sometimes the answer is truly so simple, yet massive. Instead of thinking of solutions in terms of expansion and innovation, we should instead set limits and embrace them for a healthier planet and human population.” — Anna Markulis, VRG blog
“If you care about the future of humans on planet earth, Embracing Limits is a must read. It is a towering beacon in a very dark time.”
— Howard F. Lyman, Author, Mad Cowboy
“Wow. This amazing book deserves a careful, slow reading . . . It’s full of alarming facts, but also proposes some outside the box solutions that I pray current and future generations will take to heart.”
— Seth Tibbott, Founder and Chairman of The Tofurky Company
“It is a breathtakingly broad piece of systems research and story telling that will depress you in the beginning, but will reward you if you persist through to the end.”
— Sailesh Rao, Executive Director, Climate Healers, author, Carbon Dharma and Carbon Yoga
“I learned a lot. . . . the depth and breadth of understanding of our environmental situation is impressive.”
— JoAnn Farb, author, Compassionate Souls
Saturday, April 22, 2023 (book launch): Earth Day talk at Denver Vegans meetup
Sunday, June 4: Speaker at Denver National Animal Rights Day 2023, Boulder Bandshell, SE corner of Canyon and Broadway in Boulder, 10 am to 3 pm
July 5 – 9: Speaker at the Vegan Summerfest in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
- Wednesday, July 5, 2:45 – 3:45 PM, University Room
Eight billion vegans? Water, soil, and population
- Thursday, July 6, 7:15 PM – PLENARY
Biodiversity collapse and you: Are humans the next dinosaurs?
- Saturday, July 8, 3:00 – 4:00 PM, University Room
Local Vegan Groups: Starting One and Keeping It Alive. Panel: Ted Barnett (moderator), Carol Barnett, Roberta Schiff and Keith Akers
- Sunday, July 9, 9:45 – 10:45 AM, Heritage Hall B
The cow in the room: livestock and climate change
Sunday, October 15: Main Street Vegan Academy (via Zoom), “Jesus and Embracing Limits”
Sunday, November 12: “Let’s Talk About It” (via Zoom) at First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 8:45 AM EST
Embracing Limits: A Radical and Necessary Approach to the Environmental Crisis. Keith Akers. Earth Animal Trust, 2023. 384 pages, including bibliography and index. Retail price: $25 paperback, $9.99 ebook.
Table of Contents
Part I. The problem of limits
1. It’s not just climate change:
The growing environmental crisis
2. Understanding limits:
From empty world to full world
3. Harder than it looks:
Why dealing with limits is so difficult
Getting to a smaller economy
Part II. The state of the planet
5. Biology for a small planet:
Plants, animals, and humans living together
6. Are we the next dinosaurs?:
7. Hidden dimensions of climate change:
Forests, cows, and the atmosphere
8. The dirt dilemma:
The threat of soil erosion
9. Water and agriculture:
Draining out the source of life
10. Peak oil:
Energy and the fate of industrial civilization
11. Limits and the economy:
The failure of markets
The failure of politics
Part III: Moving toward an ecological civilization
13. Parameters for an ecological civilization:
14. Renewables to the rescue?:
The limits of renewable energy
15. Nuclear power to the rescue?:
The limits of atomic energy
A place for wilderness on the planet
17. Food, animals, and disease:
The economics of nutrition
18. How many people can the earth support?:
Population, the economy, and the biosphere
19. Facing the economy:
The economics of sustainability
20. Facing future generations:
A massive demographic transition
21. Resistance, work, and technology:
Social justice in a post-consumer world
22. Why simple living is complicated:
Decommoditizing the economy
23. A new Axial Age:
The shape and character of massive social change
24. What do we do now?:
Activists and ideals
From the INTRODUCTION:
Numerous environmental problems now threaten industrial civilization. Climate change is the best known, but more wait in the wings: peak oil, mass extinctions, water shortages, overgrazing by cattle, deforestation, soil erosion, and others. Yet even as these problems multiply, our society remains paralyzed. This paralysis stems from a conflict between our assumption that economic growth will continue and the environmental reality that we have already badly overshot any sustainable limits to growth.
Few people understand the reality of limits to growth on a finite planet. Even fewer understand the biological side of limits to growth: too many livestock, too many people, and the prospect of mass extinctions. Fewer still understand the social and economic implications of these limits; mainstream economists have completely dropped the ball.
If the economy has expanded beyond sustainable limits, then common sense suggests that we need a smaller economy. We must adopt three simple measures: (1) substantially reduce personal consumption, (2) substantially reduce human population, and (3) drastically reduce or eliminate livestock agriculture. This book explains why we need to do this and provides an overall guide how to do it.
First, a preliminary word of warning: while the measures I suggest are simple, implementing them is not. This book aspires to provide a radical and necessary approach to the environmental crisis. We understand quite a bit about what needs to happen and how it could be done, but we don’t yet have all the details. Providing such details will require extensive collaboration among people with a variety of different perspectives.
You should not mistake this caveat, however, as doubt as to our ultimate destination. We can anticipate a world with much less energy; even renewable energy is limited by material shortages, the difficulty of supporting heavy industry, and energy storage issues. We can anticipate a world largely without livestock; livestock are now two-thirds of the megafauna biomass of the planet and have wiped out almost all wilderness and biodiversity. We can anticipate a world with substantially fewer people, because a truly sustainable economy cannot support eight billion humans, even if they were all vegans.
With luck, this new civilization may preserve many of the desirable facets of our civilization that are not dependent on destroying the biosphere and its flora and fauna. Perhaps this will include modern medicine, washing machines, agriculture, democracy, science, and books.
With a handful of exceptions, neither political groups, nor social justice movements, nor even environmental organizations grasp the magnitude of the problem. Those of us who are aware are almost alone in this struggle. Where shall we begin?