Friday, October 21, 2016

George M. Woodwell

Building the NEW WORLD
Lessons from our Own Time

This election makes it very clear that it is time for a new hard look at objectives in government and economics and that we and our students should be leading the way. Here is an opportunity to have a look at what one ecologist can offer in a sense of optimism and hope for the next decades, a new world consistent with the transition away from fossil fuels and into a world of restored environmental integrity.  
The book: A World To Live In: An Ecologist’s Vision For A Plundered Planet is available for a short time from  MIT Press at a substantial discount. (30% discount at with digital discount code MWORLD30  through 11/30/2016)

New from the MIT Press:
             A World to Live In: An Ecologist’s Vision for a Plundered Planet
George M. Woodwell

A century of industrial development is the briefest of moments in the half bil- lion years of  the earth’s evolution. And yet our current era has brought greater changes to the earth than any period in human history. The biosphere, the globe’s life-giving envelope  of  air and climate, has been changed irreparably.  In  A World to Live In,  ecologist George Woodwell shows that the biosphere is now a global human protectorate and that its integrity of structure and function are tied closely to the human future. The earth is a living system, Woodwell explains,  and its stability is threatened by human disruption. Industry dumps its waste globally and makes a profit from it, invading the global commons; corporate interests overpower weak or nonexistent governmental protection to plunder the planet. The fossil fuels industry offers the most dramatic example of environmental destruction, disseminating the heat-trapping gases that are now warming the earth and changing the climate forever. The assumption that we can continue to use fossil fuels and “adapt” to climate disruption, Woodwell argues, is a ticket to catastrophe.

But Woodwell points the way toward a solution. We must respect the full range of life on earth—not species alone, but their natural communities of plant and animal life that have built, and still maintain, the biosphere. We must recognize   that the earth’s living systems are our heritage and that the preservation of the integrity of a finite biosphere is a necessity and an inviolable human right. And he outlines how to go about it.

George M. Woodwell is Founder, President, and Director Emeritus of the Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He is a member of the National  Academy of Sciences, a former president of the Ecological Society of America, a former Vice Chairman  of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the author of Forests in a Full World, The Nature of House: Building a World That Works, and other  books.

“Woodwell calls for a fundamental rethink to ensure the protection  of the global commons. . . [He] is to be commended for clearly outlining  the threats and sketching out a bold solution" —Julia Fahrenkamp‑ Uppenbrink, Scienc

Hardcover | $29.95 Trade | £19.95 | 978-0-262-03407-4 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in eBook | $20.95 Trade | 978-0-262-33367-2 | 248 pp.
for more information visit

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Of Money, Biophysics and Government

   Jane Mayer’s new book, Dark Money,  sets forth with frightening clarity and compelling detail how sinister the  problem of money in politics has become[i]. The issue has been amplified in various tracts \ , none more simply stated and powerful than Bill Moyers’ widely circulated essay deploring the concentration of wealth in the hands of one percent of the populace while the majority is systematically impoverished[ii] .   Mayer  deplores the conspiracy of the  Koch brothers and allies in advancing that transition and supporting the patently false proposition that the free enterprise capitalistic system assures the welfare of all without governmental interference or regulation. She shows how corporate interests have used tax-free "public interest" institutions to advance the 1980 Reagan mantra of  "getting government off the backs of the people".  Their efforts have produced the neo-conservative  congressional leaders who refuse to perform the duties of their elected offices. These same seditious officials have also frustrated efforts to correct corporate exploitation of environment for profit including in particular all efforts to control the climatic disruption now wreaking havoc globally. .  

Neither author considers the biophysical limits of the earth as now limiting, if not defining, core political and economic objectives.  Growth of the human enterprise alone generates a soaring need for rules to protect not only public health and welfare but also corporate safety and welfare.  Here I am guilty of blatant self-promotion for I have written about these limits recently [iii].  I join in showing  that it is now essential  to invert the Reagan mantra and to restore the integrity of governmental function. The objective becomes building a government that works in assuring the full functional integrity of the global environment to accommodate growth in all aspects of the human endeavor.  We who thrive on growth travel a one-way street into a compelling need for regulation of human affairs in the interests of protecting welfare, including civil rights, as human numbers swell, corporate aspirations expand and the human undertaking intensifies.  There is no turning back to simpler times on this road into life in an ever tightening world whose core functions demand a delicately defined set of circumstances to support  all life.

These developments are products of biophysical reality,  ineluctable products of growth, not to be set aside by what amount to bribes from corporate interests aimed at turning governmental purpose to corporate advantage.   Roots of the changes required to correct these trends lie in the realities of the physical, chemical and biotic integrity the earth, whose continued function is ever more important to human welfare and challenged as never previously.    Answers lie not only in a new economy and  a restoration of responsibility and reason in government but also in using scientific insights into the elementary biophysics of  crowding a planet with 7-10 billion humans.

[i] Jane Mayer.  Dark Money. Doubleday, N.Y. 2016
[iii] George M. Woodwell. A World to Live In. MIT. Cambridge, MA. 2016

                                                                                                George M. Woodwell
Woods Hole,  MA         Sept. 11, 2016