front cover of The Three Sustainabilities
The Three Sustainabilities
Energy, Economy, Time
Allan Stoekl
University of Minnesota Press, 2021

Bringing the word sustainability back from the brink of cliché—to a substantive, truly sustainable future 

Is sustainability a hopelessly vague word, with meager purpose aside from a feel-good appeal to the consumer? In The Three Sustainabilities, Allan Stoekl seeks to (re)valorize the word, for a simple reason: it is useful. Sustainability designates objects in time, their birth or genesis, their consistency, their survival, their demise. And it raises the question, as no other word does, of the role of humans in the survival of a world that is quickly disappearing—and perhaps in the genesis of another world. 

Stoekl considers a range of possibilities for the word, touching upon questions of object ontology, psychoanalysis, urban critique, technocracy, and religion. He argues that there are three varieties of sustainability, seen from philosophical, cultural, and economic perspectives. One involves the self-sustaining world “without us”; another, the world under our control, which can run the political spectrum from corporatism to Marxism to the Green New Deal; and a third that carries a social and communitarian charge, an energy of the “universe” affirmed through, among other things, meditation and gifting. Each of these carves out a different space in the relations between objects, humans, and their survival and degradation. Each is necessary, unavoidable, and intimately bound with, and infinitely distant from, the others.

Along the way, Stoekl cites a wide range of authors, from philosophers to social thinkers, literary theorists to criminologists, anthropologists to novelists. This beautifully written, compelling, and nuanced book is a must for anyone interested in questions of ecology, energy, the environmental humanities, contemporary theories of the object, postmodern and posthuman aesthetics, or religion and the sacred in relation to community.


front cover of Wasted World
Wasted World
How Our Consumption Challenges the Planet
Rob Hengeveld
University of Chicago Press, 2012
All systems produce waste as part of a cycle—bacteria, humans, combustion engines, even one as large and complex as a city. To some extent, this waste can be absorbed, processed, or recycled—though never completely. In Wasted World, Rob Hengeveld reveals how a long history of human consumption has left our world drowning in this waste.
This is a compelling and urgent work that traces the related histories of population growth and resource consumption. As Hengeveld explains, human life (and population growth) depends not only on mineral resources but also on energy. People first obtained energy from food and later supplemented this with energy from water, wind, and animals as one source after another fell short of our ever-growing needs. Finally, we turned to fossil energy, which generates atmospheric waste that is the key driver of global climate change. The effects of this climate change are already leading to food shortages and social collapse in some parts of the world. Because all of these problems are interconnected, Hengeveld argues strenuously that measures to counter individual problems cannot work. Instead, we need to tackle their common cause—our staggering population growth. While many scientists agree that population growth is one of the most critical issues pressuring the environment, Hengeveld is unique in his insistence on turning our attention to the waste such growth leaves in its wake and to the increasing demands of our global society.
            A practical look at the sustainability of our planet from the perspective of a biologist whose expertise is in the abundances and distributions of species, Wasted World presents a fascinating picture of the whole process of using, wasting, and exhausting energy and material resources. And by elucidating the complexity of the causes of our current global state, Hengeveld offers us a way forward.

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