Systems science can help when it comes to understanding complex global crises and their synergistic social, environmental, and economic interconnections, as shown in Wayne Visser’s positive, approachable Thriving. The book introduces sophisticated management and scientific concepts in an accessible way, using mnemonics, graphics, and real-world examples from corporations, academics, and nonprofits.
Though the sustainable development movement is decades old, progressive social policies have not often been integrated into plans and policies for economic growth or environmental restoration. This text underscores the value of investing in the eradication of poverty and disease, improving access to health care and education, and improving the quality of life for marginalized populations everywhere. It argues that shifting away from “quarterly capitalism’s” emphasis on short-term gains for shareholders to longer-term benefits for other stakeholders—including the ecosphere—is simply better for business overall.
Enlivened by inspirational poetry and anecdotes from Visser’s youth in apartheid South Africa, his racial awakening, and his extensive travels around the world to observe innovations that incorporate the thriving approach, this is an exciting text. It discusses the wealth of emerging technologies and projects that convert plastic and food waste into energy; others provide low-cost digital access, solar energy, and clean water to underserved populations.
Visser is hopeful that, with social adaptation and lessons learned through the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapid pace of developing and scaling up “synnovations” will lead to a revolutionary “systems flip.” He envisions a transformative pivot from resource extraction and dominant neoliberalism to more inclusive, dynamic, and regenerative forms of economics and governance. Demonstration projects are highlighted in the book’s many helpful sidebars.
Thriving is a hopeful, persuasive, and inspiring resource for activists, business leaders, and policymakers looking for effective strategies to confront Earth’s many urgent problems.
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