1st Edition

Climate Change and Social Ecology A New Perspective on the Climate Challenge

By Stephen M. Wheeler Copyright 2012
    200 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Although strategies to prevent global warming – such as by conserving energy, relying on solar and wind power, and reducing motor vehicle use – are well-known, societies have proved unable to implement these measures with the necessary speed.  They have also been unwilling to confront underlying issues such as overconsumption, overpopulation, inequity, and dysfunctional political systems. Political and social obstacles have prevented the adoption of improved technologies, which would provide only a partial solution in any case if the fundamental causes of greenhouse gas emissions aren’t addressed.

    Climate Change and Social Ecology takes a new approach to the climate crisis, portraying global warming as a challenge of rapid social evolution. This book argues that, in order to address this impending catastrophe and bring about more sustainable development, we must focus on improving social ecology – our values, mind-sets, and social organization. Steps to do this include institutional reforms to improve democracy, educational strategies to encourage public understanding of complex issues, and measures to prevent corporations and the wealthy from shaping societies in other directions instead. This book presents a captivating vision of how to help social systems evolve toward sustainability and explores the social transformations needed for dealing with the climate crisis in the long term. It reviews the climate change strategies considered to date, presents a detailed description of a future sustainable society, and analyzes how this vision might be realized through more conscious public nurturing of our social systems.

    This interdisciplinary volume provides a compelling rethink of the climate crisis. Authoritative and accessible, it will be of great interest to anyone concerned about climate change and sustainability challenges and is essential reading for students, professionals, and general readers alike.

    1. Introduction  2. A Century of Climate Change  3. Fifty Years of the Sustainability Movement  4. Still Off the Table: Consumption, Mobility, Population, and Equity  5. Over the Cliff  6. A Sustainable Society  7. The Nature of Social Ecologies  8. Planning for Social Evolution  9. Getting from Here to There  10. Conclusion


    Stephen M. Wheeler, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the University of California, Davis, USA.

    "Once in a while, something really worthwhile emerges. This is it. Offering a provocative look at the role of social evolution in climate change, Wheeler challenges us to shape social ecology towards sustainability. The way we structure our societies holds the key to our Planet’s collective destiny and the ‘tipping point’ to plan, respond and act for transformative social evolution has been reached – it’s now."  Rhonda Phillips, Senior Sustainability Scientist Global Institute of Sustainability, and Professor, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University, USA.

    "This is a fresh and creative look at what it will take to tackle climate change, and Stephen Wheeler does not pull his punches. Technical fixes and superficial policy adjustments will never be enough in the end—what is needed is no less than social transformation, social evolution, rapidly induced. This is no hollow call to arms, but a carefully argued blueprint of the essential steps and key actions necessary to grow this new social ecology. Wheeler believes strongly we can plan this transformation, and the sooner we begin the better. This is an important book with a powerful message: essential reading for citizens and public officials alike as we face the challenge of our time." Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, University of Virginia, USA.