Civilization Critical

Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future

By Darrin Qualman  

Paperback $25.00

EPUB $24.99

The modern world is wondrous. Its factories produce ten thousand cars every hour and ten trillion transistors every second. We carry supercomputers in our pockets, and nearly a million people are in the air at any time. In Civilization Critical, Darrin Qualman takes readers on a tour of the wonders of the 21st century.

But the great strength of our modern word is also its great weakness. Our immense powers to turn resources and nature into products and waste imperil our future. And plans to double and redouble the size of the global economy veto sustainability.

So, is our civilization doomed? No. Doom is a choice. We can make different choices.

Qualman demonstrates that a 19th- and 20th-century transition to linear systems and away from the circular patterns of nature (and of all previous civilizations) is the foundational error—the underlying problem, the root cause of climate change, resource depletion, ocean’s full of plastics, and a host of mega-problems now intensifying and merging, with potentially civilization-cracking results. In this sweeping work, Qualman reinterprets and re-explains the problems we face today, and charts a clear, hopeful path into the future.

A thoughtful and thoroughly documented analysis of the runaway train we are all aboard. Anyone worried about the track ahead should read it. Those not worried should read it more than once.

— Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress

Why is the Amazon rainforest shrinking, while is growing rapidly? You will find that and other answers in this masterful book by Darrin Qualman, who takes us for a intriguing ride along the history of energy, materials and the living world, ending with a call for the transformation of our civilization.

— Wolfgang Sachs, author of The Development Dictionary, and Planet Dialectics

Mandatory reading for everyone who is determined to create a society that is more just, rooted in systems thinking and upholds hope for our children.

— Winnipeg Free Press

Civilization Critical joins a post-war chorus of books that insist humanity’s impact on the planet has gone up like a rocket since 1950, mirroring our exponential population boom. Page after page, one can feel Qualman’s pessimism: we are living through the End of Times, and there seems to be only one grim way the story can end.

— Literary Review of Canada

  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781773630878
  • May 2019
  • For sale worldwide
  • Kindle
  • ISBN: 9781773630885
  • May 2019
  • For sale worldwide

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  • “Civilization Critical is mandatory reading for everyone who is determined to create a society that is more just, rooted in systems thinking and upholds hope for our children.”

    — Winnipeg Free Press, June 2019 (full review)

  • “The circular economy that Qualman advocates must mean more than recycling straws. To achieve it in manufacturing requires a major redirection of capital and the transformation of the global workforce. A workforce that now consists of the poorest of the poor living on garbage heaps to search and reclaim valuable items to resell. This isn’t the future sustainable society Qualman envisions.”

    — Counterpunch, July 2019 (full review)


  • Introduction
  • Loops, Lines and Webs: The Shapes and Flows of Civilizations and Ecosystems
  • Food Production
  • Energies, Engines and Power
  • Complexity, Structure, and Civilizational Pyramids
  • Time
  • Efficiency
  • Progress as Foundational Myth
  • Feedbacks, Positive and Negative
  • Governance and Direction
  • Economics as a Sub-Branch of Earth Sciences
  • Conclusion: Sustainability Solutions
  • References
  • Index


  • Darrin Qualman

    Darrin Qualman is a civilizational critic. He also farmed with his family in Saskatchewan, Canada, and for many years he served as director of research for Canada’s National Farmers Union.

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