Independent Thinking in an Uncertain World : A Mind of One’s Own book cover
1st Edition

Independent Thinking in an Uncertain World
A Mind of One’s Own

ISBN 9781138387225
Published May 14, 2019 by Routledge
364 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Any effective response to an uncertain future will require independently thinking individuals working together. Human ideas and actions have led to unprecedented changes in the relationships among humans, and between humans and the Earth. Changes in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the energy we use are evidence of Nature – which has no special interest in sustaining human life – looking out for itself. Even the evolutionary context for humans has altered. Evolutionary pressures from the digital communication revolution have been added to those from natural systems. For humans to meet these challenges requires social re-organisation that is neither simple nor easy.

Independent Thinking in an Uncertain World explores workable, field-tested strategies from the frontiers of creating a viable future for humans on Earth. Based on research results from hundreds of social learning workshops with communities worldwide, many of them part of Australian National University’s Local Sustainability Project, authors with diverse interests explore the gap between open-minded individual thinking and closed socially defined knowledges. The multiple dimensions of individual, social and biophysical ways of thinking are combined in ways that allow open-minded individuals to learn from one another.

Table of Contents


Prologue: the bat cave

Part I. Ideas 

1. Thinking for oneself: outside the square 

2. Collective learning: joining the dots

3. Multiple dimensions of mind: parts and wholes

4. Celebrating difference: on not losing one’s mind

5. Multiple minds: the more we are together

6. Multiple voices: so say all of us

Part II. Practice 

7. Post-normal reconciliation: reframing the agenda

8. Sophia in the Anthropocene: towards an environmental ethic

9. The organic, the mechanical and the emergent mind

10. Escaping the ‘circular conundrum’: cropping and learning in Northern Australia

11. Epidemiological regeneration in a complex world

12. Landscape management and landscape regeneration in Australia

13. Transcoherence: labels and wicked problems

14. Re-imagining person-centred practice in a person-first organisation

15. Engaging creatively with tension in collaborative research 

16. Life and change for a regenerative farmer

Part III. Future 

17. That’s how the light gets in

18. Knowing our own minds

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Valerie A. Brown AO, BSc MEd PhD, Director, Local Sustainability Project, Human Ecology Program, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University and Emeritus Professor of Environmental Health, Western Sydney University has published widely on collective thinking and social change, notably Tackling Wicked Problems Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination.

John A. Harris BSc MSc PhD is a past Head of the School of Environmental Studies, University of Canberra, an environmental educator and an action researcher with the Local Sustainability Project and the Alliance for Regenerative Landscape and Social Health, Australia. He is author of The Change Makers and co-editor of Tackling Wicked Problems.

David Waltner-Toews BSc DVM PhD is Professor Emeritus of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph and has authored or co-authored several texts, more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and a dozen books of poetry, fiction and popular science. He was first president of Veterinarians Without Borders–Canada and a founding member of the Community of Practice for EcoHealth–Canada.


"This important and stimulating book argues that we are capable of bouncing ourselves out of locked-in ways of thinking, ways of thinking unhelpful at best and catastrophic at worst. The book’s bold ambition gives us the concepts and language to navigate the perilous new epoch of the Anthropocene."Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia

"Creatively and persuasively, this book demands an opening-up and a freeing of our modes of thinking and dialogue. In a world of ever-more pressing challenges, this is a powerful anthem for the emergence of the multidimensionality and mutual respect we will all need to live comfortably with each other and with non-human nature."Melissa Leach, anthropologist and Director, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK

"Post-Normal Science is required whenever facts are uncertain, values disputed, stakes high and decisions urgent. It is gratifying to me that the authors have found the ideas of Post-Normal Science illuminating for steering us through this uncertain world. From this book I have gained a deeper insight into what Post-Normal Science can mean for the future."Jerome Ravetz, co-originator of Post-Normal Science, Fellow of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, UK

"Independent Thinking in an Uncertain World alerts us to the need to be creative and open-minded, and to bring the whole of our thinking, the social, ethical, aesthetic and sympathetic, as well as the rational/scientific, to making our decisions about how we live in the World." — Wendy Rainbird, International Council of Women

"Global problems like climate change require global solutions, right?  Maybe not.  Maybe the answer lies in the resilience that comes from the complexity and inter-relationships in open minded independent thinking by individuals. Read this book and be optimistic about the future." Fred Pearce, contributor to New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent, and Times Higher Education

"Here is a treasurable companion and guide! It emerges from humility in the face of uncertainty, and the mental gymnastics of multiple minds and multidimensionality. Surprisingly easy to read, a feast for the imagination, with gifts from multiple learning cycles, it's for those messy and planetary issues of our times."Pierre Horowitz, Professor, School of Science, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

"Amidst the struggle and aspiration for a flourishing future, there is great value to be found in thoughtful, grounded, experiential reminders of how others are navigating. This is a practical, poetic and courageous collection, with an appealing hint of contagion. Readers could easily find themselves engaging in just this kind of independent thinking."Margot W. Parkes, Professor of Health, Ecosystems and Society, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada