About - Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture

threshold-images“If you're looking for a book that offers BIG answers to the BIG questions and that lays it all out in concise, clear, common-sense English you have it in your hands! Hartmann both lays it out and lifts us up.” —Jim Hightower, Nationally syndicated columnist, radio commentator, best selling author and editor of the Hightower Lowdown.

“America’s most popular progressive talk show host brings his powerful political and historical insight to bear on the most important question of our time: To what may we humans aspire in this time of crisis and how can we achieve it?” —David Korten, author Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

The Big Questions and the Big Picture

The world is right now tottering atop three major thresholds: an environment that is so afire it may no longer be able to support human life; an economic “free market” system that is almost entirely owned, run, and milked by a tiny fraction of 1 percent of us and has crashed and in many ways is burning around us; and an explosion of human flesh on the planet that has turned our species into a global Petri dish just waiting for an infective agent to run amok.

Four mistakes have brought us to this point, and the failure to recognize them at their deepest level will only push us faster toward total tipping points where we are thrown over the three thresholds and into disaster. All four of these mistakes are grounded in our culture, our way of thinking, our way of seeing the world, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we’re here.

Civilizations have come and gone, and those long gone vanished mostly because they despoiled their commons, allowed small elites to control their economies and governments, and lived in ways that were unsustainable. Those that survived for centuries or millennia are the ones that learned how to protect their commons, engage in nontoxic commerce and governance, and organize their cultures and lifestyles in ways that could continue in the same place and same way down through the ages.

If we don’t learn the lessons of the latter, we face the fate of the former.


Adam Eran (not verified) 10 years 30 weeks ago

Thom, I agree with your points about thresholds, however I'm puzzled by your reaction to calls that talk about reviving the commons, particularly when it comes to the design of our cities.

For example, you and Bernie essentially blew off a caller who suggested revising FNMA underwriting standards to require mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods (See http://smartcodecentral.com/smartfilesv9_2.html for example). This would be *very* effective, and would start acting *immediately*.

Besides its beneficial effects, it would cost nothing to do.

First, pedestrian-friendly streets are the beginning of social interaction among neighbors (sprawl streets are designed to at least present obstacles to such interaction). You don't need a lot of "community centers" if neighbors are encouraged to stroll and greet each others -- although they will ultimately demand such centers as they get to know each other.

Such streets are also the necessary prerequisite for working transit. What kind of transit system could any community have if no one could walk to the stops? (Answer: the kind of lame, subsidized orphan-stepchild-transit commonly found in sprawl)

Building sprawl also presents design barriers to people walking as part of their daily life -- by definition, you must drive to all significant destinations in sprawl.

Could this have anything to do with the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease we're experiencing now?

BTW, this answers the "French Question" -- because French cities have pedestrian-friendly streets, even though they eat a rich diet, the French are not nearly as obese as Americans.

Such neighborhoods are safer (more "eyes on the street"), and are even favored by the market -- property in such neighborhoods typically sells for premiums compared to sprawl.

I know you've had guests who write about this (but you haven't heard of Kunstler!?). I'd encourage you to move this to the top of your stack.

Incidentally, the level of unconsciousness about land use planning is truly monumental, so educating the public about this is important. I'm not just talking local politics here, either. A land use scam -- getting a stadium from the citizens of Arlington Texas -- accounts for 75% of George W. Bush's net worth (says David Kay Johnston in his "Free Lunch" book).

Land use is one of the "foundational" corruptions that feeds the larger corruption in U.S. public life, IMHO...

Jared Allaway (not verified) 10 years 30 weeks ago

Depending On Experience

I was just thinking about this Thom Hartmann article I recently received in email and I thought about asking Thom Hartmann "What do you think about people getting paid depending on experience?"

People who have done it before will probably be able to do it again, if they have never done it before they will have a harder time. So if you're trying to hire someone who is going to help your company, you will probably gravitate toward a candidate who has worked in a similar capacity under circumstances similar to those found at your company.

So if a want-ad read "you will be paid depending on experience" that is fine, Thom Hartmann would probably agree.

So if you look at the most recent ad Thom sent out you will see that Thom Hartmann doesn't think there are very many people competing for those high paying CEO jobs because there aren't very many people who are complete sociopaths.

I would add to that argument, the reason why there aren't very many candidates for high paying CEO jobs is because of the Reagan Policies against the middle class that killed small business development, and therefore no one can start a business and get the experience that they need.

"The Saddest Thing Is This Won't Be Breaking News"

Thom plus logo As the world burns, and more and more fossil fuels are being used every day planet-wide, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 416 ppm this week at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In the 300,000 years since the emergence of modern humans, carbon dioxide levels have never been this high.

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