The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding

A book review

Unlike my recent review of Capt. Luis Montalvan’s book Until Tuesday which came about as a result of an invitation from the UK publishers, Headline Publishing, this review of Mr. Gilding’s book is totally off my own bat.  I should also declare that I have recently been in email contact with Paul Gilding with some pleasant outcomes.  To the review.

The way ahead.

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will know that I have been making recent references to this book, which I have now finished reading.  On the 25th I quoted from the book in a post that I called The blame game.  I used a quote from Chapter 5, Addicted to Growth, namely “Growth goes to the core of the society we have built because it is the result of who we are and what we have decided to value.

Then the next day again when writing about Tim Bennett’s movie, What a Way To Go, when I reflected on Paul Gilding’s opinion that, ” the quicker that mankind recognises the massive levels of denial presently in place, the quicker that mankind will commit to the scale of change that is required“.

Now if mankind’s efforts to change to a sustainable way of life were proportional to the number of books, films and essays written about the subject then, frankly, the task would be complete.  There’s an awful lot out there!  Here’s a list of the books that I have read in the last few years:

The Human Side of Enterprise – Douglas McGregor

Motivation and Personality – Abraham Maslow

The Power of Pause – Terry Hershey

Earth in the Balance – Al Gore

The Spectrum of Consciousness – Ken Wilber

Politics Lost – Joe Klein

Why America Doesn’t Work – Chuck Colson & Jack Eckerd

The Art of Happiness – HH Dalai Lama & Howard C Cutler

Eaarth – Bill McKibben

Stabilizing an Unstable Economy – Hyman P. Minsky

The Next 100 Years – George Friedman

World of the Edge – Lester Brown

and finally

The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding

And, of course, this doesn’t even scratch the number of online journals, essays and articles that have been read in conjunction with writing hundreds of posts on this Blog.

So what’s the point?

On p.260, Chapter 20 Guess Who’s in Charge?, Paul Gilding writes,

We need to fully acknowledge the challenging times and inevitable suffering ahead but stay focused and determined to move forward and past this.  Easy to say, harder to do.

So yes, it is challenging to know how to respond to all this and what to do personally.  It is easy to see what the world should do, but what should you do?

but what should you do? Talk about a thump on the back of the head!

This is about me!

Of all the books that have influenced how I see the world and my opinions, the one book that has rammed home to me that this is about me, about my attitudes and behaviours, is The Great Disruption.  For a long time I haven’t needed convincing that man is screwing up the planet.  For ages, I’ve been sure that our greed and materialism were fundamentally incompatible with the planet. I have been so good at ‘talking the talk’ ….. but ….

But the way that Mr. Gilding has so comprehensively approached every aspect of how my past behaviours have been incompatible with the future needs of my little grandson, Morten, (and all the grandchildren in the world) is powerfully inspiring.  I now totally and utterly believe that only I am in charge of making a difference.

Why The Great Disruption touched me in this way when so many other books and articles haven’t done so isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was in the opening paragraphs?

The earth is full.

[skip one paragraph]

This means things are going to change.  Not because we will choose change out of philosophical or political preference, but because if we don’t transform our society and economy, we risk social and economic collapse and the descent into chaos.  The science on this is now clear and accepted by any rational observer.  While an initial look at the public debate may suggest controversy, any serious examination of the peer-reviewed conclusions of leading science bodies shows the core direction we are heading in is now clear.  Things do not look good.

These challenges and the facts  behind them are well-known by experts and leaders around the world, and have been for decades.  But despite this understanding, that we would at some point pass the limits to growth, it has been continually filed away to the back of our mind and the back of our drawers, with the label “Interesting – For Consideration Later” prominently attached.  Well, later has arrived.

I nodded silently in agreement when reading that.

Was it the opening paragraph to Chapter 4, Beyond the Limits – The Great Disruption?

The plans we have been making for our economies, our companies, and our lives have all been based on a key assumption that is clearly wrong.  This assumption is that our current economic model will carry on unless we choose to change it – in other words, no action means more of the same.

This resonated strongly with me because I happen to believe, without any specialist economic skills to my name – just a gut sense, that the economic situation now afflicting so many economies across the world is not cyclical but the start of a breakdown of the policies and behaviours of the last 20 years or more.  In other words, the Great Disruption was in my face already!  As is written on p. 87 in Chapter 6, Global Foreshock – The Year That Growth Stopped,

My view, firmly held at the time and since, is that 2008 was the year that growth stopped.  It was the year, as Thomas Friedman said, “when Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at once”.

The Power of a New Future

But, in the end, the real power that I found in this book was the strength of Gilding’s argument that we will change, that seeing the future as hopeless is wrong, that man has the ability to commit to huge change when there is no alternative.  Ergo, p121 Chapter 9 When the Dam of Denial Breaks,

To argue we are naturally greedy and competitive and can’t change is like arguing that we engage naturally in murder and infanticide as our forebears the chimps do and therefore as we did.  We have certain tendencies in our genes, but unlike other creatures we have the proven capacity to make conscious decisions to overcome them and also the proven ability to build a society with laws and values to enshrine and, critically, to enforce such changes when these tendencies come to the surface.

So don’t underestimate how profoundly we can change.  We are still capable of evolution, including conscious evolution.  This coming crisis is perhaps the greatest opportunity in millennia for a step change in human society.

This quote is towards the end of the last chapter that spells out, as so many other books have done, that our global society Has a Very Big Problem.  Thus from page 123 onwards, slightly less than half-way through the book, Paul Gilding devotes huge detail to describing how we will change.  Frequently, the comparison used is World War II,

British poster from 1940

When Great Britain went to war in World War II, do you think they had clarity on all the details of transitioning into a war economy before they made the decision to act?  Of course they considered it, as we must, but it wasn’t a determining issue because there was no choice.  Do you think President Roosevelt calculated the United States could win the war by increasing military spending to 37 percent of U.S. GDP and producing a nuclear bomb before he decided to enter the war?  Of course not: he just knew they had to succeed and so they would.  He had confidence in human ingenuity delivering under pressure, when it’s given defined parameters and political support, and so must we.

From p. 164, Chapter 12 Creative Destruction on Steroids.

That’s what ended up being the real inspiration for me.  That it’s not about the complex problems looming large; as so many that Jean and I chat to here in Payson, AZ, readily admit to being worried.  It’s not news! The majority of the world’s citizens know the trends are not good.

No, what really socked me between the eyes was reading all the many and varied ways that we are changing (note present tense), that the Great Disruption is, in fact, mankind moving to a new era.  One where we will have less inequality, less poverty, be happier, have extended life-spans and a future that goes on for thousand of years.

The Future is Here.

The phrase ‘life-changing’ is often used but this book is truly life-changing.  The book will motivate you in ways that you can’t imagine.  It will inspire you but, above all, it will show you the way ahead.  Read it.

Well done, Mr. Gilding.  Well done, indeed!

Mr. Paul Gilding

3 thoughts on “The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding

  1. Yes Paul we are in the Change… For Change is part of growth and renewal and it means we all need to move and go forward, which means we may need to leave the old ways of thinking and especially the systems we have in place at the moment behind.
    Society needs to get back to some basics we have forgotten especially in materialistic world of power, control and greed.. World wars brought people together as they united together to survive .. “Dig in for Victory” is once again here in the UK become the norm.. as in my area in the East Midlands in the UK Allotments are in demand with waiting lists.. We have had one for many many years growing our own veg etc. And we shall find that in the future we may all need to become more self-reliant ..
    The Monetary systems are crumbling although many are in denial that they will collapse completely.. This would indeed cause a “ Great Disruption” as the knock on effect would make people re-evaluate their lives and priorities for if money had no value we would have to barter and learn to live like those in the war years as we learnt to survive on a lot less…
    The only problem is that many wouldn’t want to live in harmony or barter, but Steal and take… this is where I see Chaos arising in the none to distant future if we do not start to address the problems now.. It seems to me All Nations are coming unstuck and they sink further and further into debt.. This problem is occurring right now…. for instance we have had rows of vegetables dug up and stolen within a locked walled allotment where by many are having their hard work stolen by thieves. This has increased significantly this last year than in previous years and unemployment here has escalated and the Food Prices have shot through the roof with the extra cost being past on of Fuel price increases and Energy utility Bills.. Etc.. Unfortunately it will not just stop at the vegetable patch if this occurs..
    My own view is that we have to change yes, But the only thing I can possibly change at the moment is my own thoughts my own actions as we send out our own ripple effects into the world.. Hoping that we can add to the Light of others of the same vibration and show that Unity and Harmony can be achieved as we unite within the consciousness to change this world for the Betterment of All Mankind..
    This Book you have reviewed Paul is a definite on my lists of to do reads..
    Sorry for the lengthy reply…. didnt mean to go on so…. Dreamwalker


    1. Sue, very well said. Paul Gilding, in my opinion, is the first author that I have read who successfully related the issues that are facing us all now back to me. Not anyone else! Plus Gilding very cleverly proposes that this is not a question of our present life or the end of the world! No, Gilding shows that, as has happened more than once over the length of H. sapiens (200,000 years +/-), that this is the end of an era but ahead of us is a new era that will be a much more compatible existence with the finite planet that we all live on.


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