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Excerpts from The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before

Its Too Late, by Thom Hartmann, Three Rivers Press, 1998, 1999, 2004 Part I: Were Running Out of Ancient Sunlight Were Made Out of Sunlight p. 7 Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of almost all life on Earth. Every life-form on the surface of this planet is here because a plant was able to gather sunlight and store it, and something else was able to eat that plant and take that sunlight energy in to power its body. p. 12 About 900 years ago, humans in Europe and Asia discovered coal below the surface of the Earth and began to burn it. This coal was the surface of most of the ancient mats of vegetation this 300-millionyear-old stored sunlight and by burning it humans were, for the first time, able to use sunlight energy that had been stored in the distant past. This represents a critical moment in human history, for this is when our ancestors started living off our planets sunlight savings. p. 13 Because our ancestors could consume sunlight that had been stored by plants millions of years ago, they began for the first time to consume more resources in food, heat, and other materials than the daily amount of sunlight falling locally on our planet had historically been able to provide. The planets human population grew beyond the level that the Earth could sustain if humans were using only local current sunlight as an energy and food source. Had our ancestors run out of coal, Nature would have taken over and limited their population. Instead, our ancestors discovered another bank account they could tap, another reserve of ancient sunlight: the plant matter that hundreds of millions of years ago had sunk to the floor of the oceans, and had then been trapped belowground and compressed into what we refer to as oil. p. 15 In less than a tenth of a percent of the total history of humanity, weve experienced over 90 percent of the total growth of the human population. p. 19 Theres obviously a collision coming between our growing population, with its increasing consumption of dwindling supplies of ancient sunlight, and our ability to sustain that population. How Can Things Look So Good Yet Be So Bad p. 20 There are two ways that things can look fine even when an entire civilization is headed for trouble. 1. Dont pay as you go just live off your startup capital. p. 22 2. The Ponzi scheme. p. 30 Another reason things may look fine is that, on the whole, Americans are startlingly uninformed about the state of the rest of the world. The Death of the Trees p. 42 More than 75 percent of the topsoil that existed worldwide when Europeans first colonized America is now gone, and substantial damage has been done to the water cycle by cutting our forests. p. 44 [T]rees are the major source of recycled oxygen for the atmosphere. They are our planets lungs. p. 45 [O]ver 1,500 acres of land are becoming desert worldwide every hour, largely because of the destruction of upwind forests. Extinctions: Diversity Supports Survival p. 53 So we can see that even this very early and relatively small worldwide human population [10,00020,000 years ago] had a substantial impact on the planet, one that in all probability led to a significant extinction of species. But now, with the added power of fossil fuels, our population and our impact have amplified to the point where were endangering continent-wide and planet-wide ecosystems. Diversity supports survival, and were losing it. The Last Hours of (Cheap, Clean) Water p. 92 Consider, for example, the Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches from Texas to South Dakota, covering 174,000 square miles and holding enough water to fill Lake Huron. p. 93 Right now the amount of water being pulled out of the aquifer, both for residential use and as irrigation for agriculture, is greater than the total flow of the Colorado River. Estimates vary, but theres a broad consensus that the aquifer will pump dry (or at least low enough to be unusable) at current rates of usage sometime in the next 30 to 50 years.
[Some chapters omitted for reasons of space.] Book summary courtesy of the Progressive Womens Alliance of West Michigan.

Over 40 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. and about a third of our cotton is irrigated by the Ogallala, and a quarter of all the feed grains exported by the United States are grown on its water. In total, over 14 million acres of cropland draw their sustenance from the aquifer land that will become unproductive when it runs dry. Deforesting, Fighting for Fuel, and the Rise and Fall of Empires p. 115 Every modern civilization over the past seven thousand years has been crippled and then destroyed by a shortfall in their primary fuel supply. Our civilization may or may not elude the same fate. However, its almost certain that the coming resource imbalance will strain the foundations of democracy, perhaps beyond the breaking point. Part II: Younger and Older Cultures: How Did We Get Here? Younger Culture Stories About How Things Are p. 140 Modern consciousness has been formed by a set of very specific myths, beliefs, and paradigms (which I call stories) and its these stories that have brought us affluence and comfort, yet, paradoxically, are speeding our cultures demise. They can be summarized as follows: We are not an integral part of the world; we are separate from it. p. 141 It is our destiny to subdue and rule the rest of creation. Younger Cultures see themselves as dominators and conquerors. What We Need to Remember p. 176 Instead of the story that were separate from creation and born to dominate it, these cultures [Older Cultures, e.g. Native Americans] hold a different view of the place of humans in the order of creation: We are part of the world. It is our destiny to cooperate with the rest of creation. Power vs. Cooperation in Social Structure: the City-state vs. Tribes p. 193 There are two basic social organizations of humans that we know of: city-states and tribes. p. 194 The evidence from analysis of tribal peoples alive today is that tribal life is relatively stress-free, satisfying, produces more leisure time than city-state life, and perhaps most important is sustainable indefinitely. p. 196 About seven thousand years ago, the first politically organized city-states came into being.p. 197 Now, however, were beginning to see the flaws in a city-state organization [concentration of power, haves and have-nots, belief that we are at the top of a natural hierarchy, overpopulation and damage to environment]. Part III: What Can We Do About It? The New Science p. 242 [T]here is great spiritual and cultural power in performing small acts of mercy. They echo farther than most people realize, and begin a morphic resonance process of putting out into the air in a way that becomes culturally contagious the millions of small steps that must be taken worldwide to save our planet and our species. Touching the Sacred p. 258 The true power of meditation and the reason for meditating is to become awake in this very moment. And from that place that here-and-now touching of the power of life we can find the ability to transform ourselves and others in ways that can and will transform the world. This seemingly very personal work is actually among the most important things we can do to save the world, because as we become grounded in the present, we gain the power to create change. Re-empower Women p. 272 In almost every country we can see this equation demonstrated: male domination equals population explosion; relative male-female equality equals sustainable population. In this regard, you could say that the womens rights movement is truly a human rights movement. So another solution to this mess we find ourselves in is to give power back to women in all realms, including the social, familial, religious, military, and business worlds.
[Some chapters omitted for reasons of space.] Book summary courtesy of the Progressive Womens Alliance of West Michigan.

The Secret of Enough p. 273 If some stuff will make you happy, then twice as much stuff will make you twice as happy p. 274 [This] myth has become a core belief in the cultures of America, much of Europe, and most of the developing world. p. 275 In Older Cultures, the goal of the entire community is to bring every person in the community to the enough point. p. 278 We must, as a culture, rediscover where the point of enough is, both materially and spiritually. Respect Other Cultures and Communities p. 278 In tribal life, differences between cultural and racial groups are recognized as entirely sensible and natural. p. 281 When we see that it is wrong to impose our products, way of life, religion, and anything else simply because it is disrespectful of their way of life, then this type of Younger Culture domination of one people by another can stop. Renounce the Destruction of Life p. 288 The continual glorification of this killing through nationalism and media and dominant culture in general only guarantees more pain and human suffering in the future. Change the Focus of How We Use Technology p. 294 Solar panels, wind power systems, hydropower systems, hydrogen production and storage systems: all of these represent ways that current oil can be used as an investment rather than an expenditure. Turn Off the TV p. 302 [O]ur Younger Culture increasingly gets stuck in an unfinished, immature stage of development, a stage that says, Im the center of the universe, Im whats important. [This] is shouted at us daily through TV, the primary spokesvehicle of our culture. The Modern-Day Tribe: Intentional Community p. 307 [S]mall, independent, self-sufficient communities have the greatest ability to survive the normal cycles of boom-and-bust that our economy and culture go through, and an even better chance of surviving the major catastrophes that may loom ahead as our oil supply dwindles. Transforming Culture Through Politics p. 336 Those of us who still believe in republican democracy would have We, The People make the decisions through representatives weve elected without the feudal influence of corporate money. Facing the power of the East India Companys corporate feudalism in 1773, the Founders of our nation, unable to get their voices heard in the halls of the British government turned to two nonviolent and very effective methods to spread the new meme of democracy. The first was pamphleteering and the Internet is todays pamphlet. Millions are using e-mail and pointing to websites to awaken people and promote democratic change. The second was creating committees of correspondence, also used extensively by the Womens Suffrage movement. These were groups organized to write letters to the editors of newspapers. Taking Back America p. 343 Political parties can bring about such transformation only if we, in massive numbers, join them, embrace them, and ultimately gain a powerful and decisive voice in their policy-making and selection of candidates. Something Will Save Us p. 352 History demonstrates that the deepest and most meaningful cultural/social/political changes began with individuals, not organizations, governments, or institutions. p. 353 In helping to save the world, the most important work you and I face is to help individuals transform their ability to perceive reality and control the stories they believe because people do tend to live out what they believe is true. Then, out of this new perspective, we ourselves will come up with the solutions in ways that you and I right now probably cant even imagine.
[Some chapters omitted for reasons of space.] Book summary courtesy of the Progressive Womens Alliance of West Michigan.