Is this book for you? In the preface to this book, Gary Alexander writes, “However you have come to this book, I imagine you are likely to be in general sympathy with my starting points”:
â€¢ A worry about the natural environment. You have a strong sense that human activities are destroying natural habitats, that plants and animals are going extinct rapidly, the climate is changing, the weather is becoming more unstable, the air and seas are polluted, and more. […]To a large extent you feel caught in an unsustainable lifestyle.
â€¢ Worries about the economy, local and global, and where it is going. […] You probably have a sense of resigned cynicism about all the awful things which are done purely in pursuit of money, whether it is arms and tobacco sales, or the corruption that affects business and politics.
â€¢ A sense of hopeless despair about wars and ethnic cleansing. Yes, the cold war has ended and the shadow of a nuclear war between the west and communism has largely cleared. But you feel that so many of the conflicts which are left are just as appalling.
â€¢ Nagging doubts about your government. You may live in a country with a parliamentary democracy amd free elections. But somehow it doesn’t feel like ‘government by the people and for the people’. […] But you imagine that there could be something much better, much more community-based and with a much more human face.
â€¢ Concern about the decline of relationships and community. […] You worry about the effects on so many children of both a broken family and a non-existent community. Perhaps you think this has some connection with the rate of crime which seems to be getting higher.
Given these criteria, eGaia should enjoy wide readership and appreciation for what the author has presented. Given Dr. Alexander’s obvious interests in communication, sharing, and learning, it comes as no surprise that this book is highly readable, accessible, and even entertaining. The text is sprinkled with cartoons, stories, case studies, and ongoing dialogues with an imaginary reader, so that one feels a part of a dynamic, interactive process while reading the book.
Much in the vein of our recently reviewed Garden Planet, eGaia is admittedly Utopian, initially pessimistic, but ultimately hopeful in its prescription for a better world. You may have cancer, the kindly family doctor councels, but it’s not the end of the world – yet. I have a cure for you that just might work.
As he notes on his website, “The problems which humanity has created for the natural world and for itself – extinction of species, loss of habitat, damage to agriculture, climate change, wars, hunger, poverty, family and community disintegration and financial instability – are severe enough that the metaphor of a global cancer seems appropriate.
“To counter that global cancer, this book sets out a Utopian yet practical agenda for change that harnesses the exciting potential of electronic communication to launch a new era of community regeneration.
“It proposes a system of relationships – with the Earth as a living organism, and among the people living in it – that embody principles of collaboration and sustainability. It offers a path to a future with a co-operative free-market economy. It shows how electronic communications can be used so that the driving force of the economy is the health of the environment and the well being of all of humanity rather than money flows.”
All this is well and good, and it is this reviewer’s opinion that there cannot be too many books in this emerging genre out there to be read, as they all contain distinct and vital pieces of the big puzzle that urgently needs to be put together – the sooner the better. The good news is that books and ideas like this are no longer considered radical, paranoid, extremist conspiracy theories or Marxist fantasies; the bad news is that it may well be too little, and way too late. The earthquake has taken place already – now what to do about the impending tsunami?
Gary Alexander works for The Open University, the world’s leading distance learning University, in the Faculty of Technology, where he is Senior Lecturer in the Information and Communication Technologies Department. He is one of the OU’s pioneers in putting distance learning online, with an emphasis on collaborative learning and online support communities.Â Major interests at present include promoting eGaia and the ideas in it (See extracts from it or order a copy); and The Open Co-op, his new project which is implementing the visions in the book. Its purpose: To build a worldwide community of individuals and organisations committed to creating a collaborative, sustainable economy.