"One of the biggest flaws in the common conception of the future is that the future is something that hapens to us, not something we create." --Michael Anissimov, Futurist, Science & Technology writer.
That quote is not in WorldChanging: A User's Guide to the 21st Century, but it should be. The idea behind the book is an idea that we, at TreeHugger, share: We will have the future we make for ourselves; We have all the tools and technologies needed to make a "bright green future" (WorldChanging's name for that future); What we don't have is the luxury of time, so lets start now.So how's the book?
It is well structured and covers a lot of ground: 7 Main themes (Stuff, Shelter, Cities, Community, Business, Politics and Planet) encapsulate a multitude of topics, from "Consuming Responsibly" to "Thinking Differently about Water" and "Ecosystem Services". Since there are many writers (I count at least 33) who contributed material, keeping things coherent certainly must've been a challenge, and I think they succeeded in giving it a unified feel.
The book is more expansive horizontally than vertically, but that's not a flaw. Someone who doesn't know much at all about the topics covered will come out on the other side with enough knowledge to want to know more; that person will be super-charged from "newbie" to "proactive optimist" in less time than it usually takes for this to happen, and that's the main benefit that User's Guide brings to the table.
Being composed of many short pieces arranged by topic, the rhythm of the book is a bit staccato but won't be anything new to anyone who's familiar with blogs. The absence of a single narrative thread is not necessarily a bad thing since the book can be read both as a linear work or browsed as a reference tool, a bit like an encyclopedia, a catalog of solutions.
Of course, the book is not without flaws, and once in a while I wish they had cited more sources or covered certain things instead of some others, but these are minor complaints. They do recommend lots of "further reading" books at the end of each section, which is great. You could build a pretty decent knowledge base just by picking from the book that are recommended.
And for those who are wondering, the book is made with chlorine-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper and wind-power credits were purchased for the equivalent of electricity it took to make it.
So what's the verdict?
Emphatically recommended. It would make a good gift, both for the person you're giving it to and for the planet. Kudos to the WorldChanging team and in particular to Alex Steffen (who oversaw the project).