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Commanding Hope:
The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril

Thomas Homer-Dixon

  • Review by Geoff Love

  • 464 pages

  • Knopf Canada

  • Read September 2020

"I couldn't have written anything resembling this book without the inspiration and emotional support that Ben and Kate, my children, have provided so abundantly. I finally decided (in the face of much advice) that this book had to be about hope"

 

So ends Thomas Homer-Dixon's most recent - and most hopeful book "Commanding Hope", referred to as "Canada's #1 bestselling thought leader" (but also "The Doom Meister"). In this book he tackles his biggest challenge yet: "How can we be honest about the extent of our problems without destroying the hope we need to sustain both our psychological well-being and our sense of agency? How, in short, do we reconcile honesty and hope?".

 

Homer-Dixon's last two book told the truth about the global threats to our future security that have been building for the past 50 years and the four horsemen of the last 5: nuclear weapons; Donald Trumps' 2016 election; vast clouds of wildfire smoke; a global pandemic. This book doesn't chart an easy way through those threats, but it presents a way to behave and engage to make a difference to our planet's future. This book is really about what he calls "agency" - finding the power of your voice. It's about the psychology of change.

 

The parallels to Stephanie May's (you know whose mother) fight against nuclear armaments is instructive. In what may be the most personal segment in the book, Homer-Dixon challenges us to imagine holding the position of a science/climate change denier. His first reaction to this is the relief one would feel - i.e. that the climate wasn't doomed after all. But his second, deeper realization is that his life of effort "is suddenly pointless". Going deeper still, he realizes that the idea that "greed wins" and "selfishness and recklessness win" basically offends his soul. The remainder of the book skillfully explores the key inter-linked temperaments to accomplish the (not so simple) task of "renewing the future".

 

Homer-Dixon wrote this book for his children. I can't wait to give it to my granddaughters as they inherit the mess our generation has left them.