An Experiment in Book-Writing

Update note, 1 Feb 2018:

This post, the original intro to this website, was drafted in September 2009. Many things have changed since then. For one, I changed the name of my second book, “The ISIS Agreement”, and everything associated with ISIS (including our sustainable development planning methodology, now called VISIS). My second book is now called The Sustainability Transformation — but I have left the original text below just as it was drafted, in 2009. Also: Smartphones were not ubiquitous yet. Twitter was a curiosity. Kindle was still pretty new. In other words: this text is a time capsule. When I wrote it, what we now think of as the take-it-for-granted past was still the soon-to-be-amazing (and worrying) future.

Original post, 27 Sep 2009:

As readers of my new book The ISIS Agreement will know, for the past fifteen years or so I have been working on a three-volume series on sustainability, beginning with Believing Cassandra (1999), and following up with ISIS. The series has the temporal structure Past-Present-Future, and all three have mythological goddess-figures in the title. I tend to call the books by those names.

Cassandra focuses on the past, and on how we muddled our way into this mess that the intellectuals of the 1970s called the “global problematique,” and which we now call the global sustainability crisis, or even just the climate crisis (since climate is the headline issue of the day). Cassandra looked at these developments through the lens of the classic global study from 1972, The Limits to Growth, and it introduced the concept of a “sustainability change agent,” someone who works to spread ideas and innovations. I am happy to report that the book is still being used in university courses, ten years later; and it will get updated in a revised edition soon.

The ISIS Agreement is about the present: what we do, today, to practice sustainable development. “ISIS” stands for “Indicators, Systems, Innovations, and Strategy, in addition to echoing the name of Egypt’s ancient goddess. ISIS is a book about tactics and empowerment, tools and methods, breakthroughs and power battles and codes of ethics. It is designed for a general readership, but one that is interested in (or even already committed to) making change for sustainability. It stands alone, while also picking up where Cassandra left off. Like that first volume, ISIS offers a message of hope, one that is grounded in observations and experience about how hopes become strategies and actions.

The final book in the series is tentatively titled Gaia’s Dreams, and is about the future: what we imagine, and how we imagine it. It intends to cover the biology, sociology, politics, even the natural history of our capacity to dream up the future and then try to realize it. I am still early in the process of writing this book, but I am already actively writing it.

The ISIS book is starting to gain the readership I had hoped for: a broad base of professionals, amateurs, and students who are working for sustainability. That book was built on the input of many colleagues and friends with whom I have been working over the past decade or more to develop the “ISIS Method” and “ISIS Accelerator” tools. Both the tools and the book should properly be seen as the product of collaboration, rather than solitary authorship.

For Gaia, the traditional archetype of the solitary author seems even less appropriate. I am attempting a very broad-brush picture of a very complex topic, while maintaining the high degree of readability that people liked about Cassandra and ISIS.

Hence this blog: an experiment in writing more publicly — or at least, thinking about the writing (notes, links, research, etc.) more publicly.

Welcome to the process of dreaming up Gaia’s Dreams

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