Down to the Wire

Confronting Climate Collapse

by David W. Orr

"The real fault line in American politics is not between liberals and conservatives.... It is, rather, in how we orient ourselves to the generations to come who will bear the consequences, for better and for worse, of our actions."So writes David Orr in Down to the Wire, a sober and eloquent assessment of climate destabilization and an urgent call to action. Orr describes how political negligence, an economy based on the insatiable consumption of trivial goods, and a disdain for the well-being of future generations have brought us to the tipping point that biologist Edward O. Wilson calls "the bottleneck." Due to our refusal to live within natural limits, we now face a long emergency of rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, and a host of other related problems that will increasingly undermine human civilization. Climate destabilization to which we are already committed will change everything, and to those betting on quick technological fixes or minor adjustments to the way we live now, Down to the Wire is a major wake-up call. But this is not a doomsday book. Orr offers a wide range of pragmatic, far-reaching proposals--some of which have already been adopted by the Obama administration--for how we might reconnect public policy with rigorous science, bring our economy into alignment with ecological realities, and begin to regard ourselves as planetary trustees for future generations. He offers inspiring real-life examples of people already responding to the major threat to our future.An exacting analysis of where we are in terms of climate change, how we got here, and what we must now do, Down to the Wire is essential reading for those wanting to join in the Great Work of our generation.

  • Oxford University Press; September 2009
  • ISBN: 9780199736836
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: Down to the Wire
  • Author: David W. Orr
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"A terrific book . . . nowhere is the challenge of our moment more clearly expressed." --Senator John Kerry
"Orr acknowledges [the] dire circumstances, but does not wallow in despair or defeatism. His book is a clear-sighted view of what we need to change now...Orr's book will do much to help achieve the required cultural transformation, hopefully just in time."--Nature
"If you want to read the latest, and one of the most streamlined yet comprehensive accounts of our predicament, I'd recommend Down to the Wire by David Orr, an Oberlin College professor who has long been one of the country's leading environmental thinkers. He lays out the dangers, and he lays out the plans that would be needed to counteract those dangers; it's all there in simple and unavoidable prose." --Bill McKibben, New York Review of Books
"If climate change were not an issue, what you would have to say would be undiminished in its urgency....I thank you for not giving up, for staking out the ground of 'authentic hope,' and for reinvigorating that indispensable term, 'maybe.'"--Wendell Berry, from a letter to the author
"Although his research findings are well referenced, Orr's integration and interpretation take the book beyond the typical academic treatise...Refreshingly candid regarding heroes, villains, and difficult decisions, Orr writes with exceptional elegance and passion...Highly recommended."--CHOICE
"Powerful and prophetic."--Thomas Berry
"A dazzling intellectual sweep across the causes and solutions to our mounting 'long emergency.' Orr shows convincingly that leadership and good governance, not just technological solutions, will all have to be part of the mix if we are to save the planet in time."--Stephen H. Schneider, Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Stanford University
"A sweeping synthesis of science, politics, history, and public policy--shaped by extraordinary wisdom, reason, and conviction--this very important book envisions a roadmap to a livable future."--Ray Anderson, Founder and Chair, Interface Inc., and author of Confessions of a Radical Industrialist
"David couples realism with optimism to create an honest look at how we consider the environment, povery, and equality. If he believes that humans can rise to the occasion of our global climate crisis, so can you. Thanks, David!"--Majore Carter, Economic Development Consultant, MacArthur "Genius" Fellow
"Lucid, richly documented, and powerful."--George M. Woodwell, Director Emeritus, The Woods Hole Research Center
"It is rare to find so many fresh insights between the convers of one book. We are all indebted to David Orr for his incisive thinking."--Lester R. Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute, and author of Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
"Down to the Wire takes the reader beyond the viewpoints which are standard fare in the climate literature: technological optimism and sustainability on the one hand, or techo-criticism, lament and despair on the other. Orr foresees a pathway to solving our dilemma, one marked by political leadership and respect for human dignity."--Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University
"Deeply informed by wide reading, practical experience, and many years of passionate teaching and activism, David Orr's cogent arguments provide leadership both to meet the climate disruption that our foresight has been insufficient to avoid, and to help avoid worse. Highly recommended!"--Herman Daly, Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland
"One of the great scholars in the climate change and clean energy debate, Orr's new book sets out a challenging and hopeful agenda for real change in how we reshape our nation, our energy policies, and ultimately our personal lives, for the long haul battle against climate destabilization." --Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post
"Orr adroitly weaves environmental science and policy together with perspectives from history, philosophy, political science, legal studies, and communications to contextualize climate change as a symptom of other problems that, if confronted, can be addressed. The result is a touchstone for anyone interested in engaging constructively in social change." --ClimateEdu Newsletter, National Wildlife Federation
Orr's book is gracefully written, with a lucid and comprehensive vision it is important that everyone reads it, because it is about our future, which is likely to be very different from the present. --North Coast Journal

About The Author

David W. Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Advisor to the President of Oberlin College. He is the author of numerous books, including The Nature of Design and Ecological Literacy.