An Introduction to


Chapter 4


Annotated Bibliography

  1. Hopkins, Rob, 2008, The Transition Handbook: Creating local sustainable communities beyond oil dependency, Sydney: Finch Publishing.

    UK-based environmental activist and writer Rob Hopkins trained in the use of permaculture principles, which originated in Australia. In 2004, he began to apply permaculture principles in thinking about local responses to the global problem of ‘peak oil’ and in 2005 he moved to Totnes in England to launch the first ‘transition town’ action plan. Transition Towns has subsequently become an international movement and Hopkins writes as an advocate of this approach to climate change and peak oil. He obtained a PhD from Plymouth University in 2011.

  2. Steffen, Will  2010, 'Observed trends in Earth System behavior', Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: WIREs Climate Change, vol. 1, pp. 428-449.

    This paper provides an overview of scientific observations on global climate change.

  3. Hulme, Mike, 2009, Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Geographer Mike Hulme was a senior researcher in the Centre for Climatic Research at the University of East Anglia before he became the inaugural director of that university’s world-famous Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. This book reflects his frustration about public debates on climate change science and it calls for a deeper cultural response to the challenges posed by global climate change. Hulme is now the Professor of Climate Change and Culture at Kings College London.

  4. Steffen, W, Grinevald, J, Crutzen, P et al 2011, 'The anthropocene: Conceptual and historical perspectives', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A, vol. 369, no. 1938, pp. 842-867.

    Climate systems scientist Paul Crutzen coined the term ‘anthropocene’ in 2007 to suggest that human impacts on planetary systems have taken us into a whole new era in the history of life on the planet. This suggestion has taken off in the following years to the point where scientists are arguing that the Anthropocene should be recognised as an established idea. This paper presents the argument for the new era by a number of the world’s leading climate systems scientists.

  5. Klein, Naomi 2014, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, New York: Simon & Schuster.

    This book by radical investigative journalist Naomi Klein received strong endorsements from a range of climate change researchers and was listed as one of the 100 notable books of the year by the New York Times Book Reviews

  6. Rittel, Horst and Melvin Webber, 1973, ‘Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,’ Policy Sciences,Vol 4, pp 155-169. Available from Elsevier Scientific Publishing, Amsterdam.

    This is the paper that launched the concept of ‘wicked problems’ and it remains a lucid explanation of the idea. The paper is available on open source access from Elsevier Scientific Publishing, Amsterdam.

  7. Sachs, Wolfgang and Tilman Santarius (eds), 2007, Fair Future: Limited Resources, Conflicts, Security and Global Justice, London: Zed Books.

    German sociologist Wolfgang Sachs established his reputation as a leading critic of market-driven economic globalisation when he co-authored a highly influential book titled The Development Dictionary in 1992. He joined the German Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy in 1993 and teamed up with the sociologist/economist Tilman Santarius to produce this book in order to showcase the work of the Wuppertal Institute. It explores the intersection between global concerns about environmental sustainability and social justice.

  8. Heinberg, Richard, 2007, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Decline, Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.

    Having attracted interest with his provocative 2003 book The Party’s Over, US journalist and environmental writer Richard Heinberg uses wry humour to argue that radical changes will be need to attitudes and expectations as we move from the Age of Excess to the Age of Modesty.

  9. Hulme, Mike, 2014, Can Science Fix Climate Change? Cambridge: Polity.

    This book is essentially an updated version of Hulme’s 2009 Why We Disagree About Climate Change. This book sharpens the argument that it is dangerous to think that we can rely on ‘technofix’ solutions to cope with the profound social and cultural challenges that have been thrown into relief by the onset of global climate change.

Annotated Links to Further Web Resources

  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

    This is the official website of the Geneva-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Through it you can access information about IPCC working groups, assessment reports, other publications, and speeches or presentations made by IPCC members. Note that fragments of IPCC assessment reports are available from a wide range of websites and blogs but the full reports are made available only through the official website.

  2. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

    The UK-based Tyndall Centre brings together scientists, engineers, economists and social science researchers to consider the impacts of global climate change and some possible responses. It has been a valuable source of information since it was founded in 2000, with Professor Mike Hulme as its inaugural director.

  3. UN Food and Agriculture Organization

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization provides access to good information about world poverty from the perspectives of food and water shortages.

  4. UN Development Programme

    The official website of the United Nations Development Programme provides information on global efforts to reduce extreme poverty.

  5. Wuppertal Institute

    The website of the German Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy provides information on the Institute’s members and research groups and projects. You can access research reports and other Institute publications. You can also subscribe to the WI Newsletter through the website.

  6. Transition Towns Network

    The international Transition Towns network is based in Totnes, Devon, England, where it began. The website provides information about international projects and groups as well as providing access to relevant reports and other resources, books and films about the work that was pioneered by Rob Hopkins.

  7. Austin Center for Design

    The US-based Austin Center for Design provides access to publications and other resources related to the concept of ‘wicked problems’.

  8. Worldwatch Institute

    This Washington-based institute was established in 1974 by farmer-turned-agricultural economist Lester Brown. It is probably best known for its annual State of the World reports but it also publishes other reports which provide a critical perspective on sustainability policies and practices.

  9. Earth Policy Institute

    This institute was set up by Lester Brown after he left the larger Worldwatch Institute in 2002. With a fairly small team of researchers, Earth Policy Institute has published several books by Lester Brown and it aims to provide resources for environmental activists.

  10. WWF and Allianz Insurance Company

    A website resource ‒ including a nice ‘globe’ graphic interface and linked videos ‒ produced by the WWF and Allianz with connections to the Tyndall Centre. It defines what is meant by a ‘tipping point’, outlines 12 possible climate tipping points from around the world and then explains what the effects of these would be.

  11. The Oil Drum

    This valuable website is now defunct, but it has been saved in its entirety as an online resource. The archives include articles on energy trends/developments and their socio-political, technological and economic consequences. It can be searched according to country to provide country-specific content. Whilst this material will inevitably date, the website was still active up until 2013 and there are general background articles and resources which are really useful.

  12. IEA Sankey graphs

    A website resource produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which allows the user to generate Sankey graphs ‒ essentially flow charts showing overall energy inputs and outputs ‒ for the great majority of countries in the world. These are quite useful for demonstrating comparative energy usage for various countries.

Annotated Links to Video Clips

  1. This Changes Everything (for information and a trailer)

    Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.

  2. This Changes Everything: Interview with Naomi Klein

    Duration: 1:34:56

    An interview with Naomi Klein about the making of the film This Changes Everything. The interview was conducted in 2014 by Owen Jones of The Guardian newspaper.

  3. Why we disagree about climate change, Professor Mike Hulme

    Duration: 1:18:25

    2011 lecture sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Big Ideas programme. Also available on Youtube:

  4. The Cultural Dimensions of Adaptation to Climate Change, Neil Adger

    Duration: 3:31

    In this 2012 presentation, former Tyndall Centre researcher and geographer Neil Adger talks about the need for cultural change in response to the onset of global climate change.

  5. Hydrosphere

    Duration 5:15

    A 2011 video from Oxford University Press, Canada, on the impacts of climate change on planetary water cycles.

  6. Trend and Variation

    Duration: 1:05

    This YouTube video from Teddy TV provides a lovely demonstration of the difference between long-term trends and fluctuations – or more specifically ‘climate’--and ‘weather’. It is particularly useful in that it addresses the correlation between specific weather events and ‘climate’ as an historical trend.

  7. How to work with wicked problems, KL Kennisland

    Duration: 5:13

    This YouTube clip comes from the Amsterdam-based KL Kennisland ‘social innovation’ agency ( It is a concise and accessible introduction featuring good use of graphics.

  8. BBC World Debate: Why Poverty?

    Duration: 47:18

    As part of an initiative with 50 other international broadcasters, the BBC hosted this debate in Cape Town in 2012. The panel included Vandana Shiva, Tony Blair and two African political leaders.

  9. The cost of inequality

    Duration: 18:11

    In this 2013 TEDx talk, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz focuses on the growth of inequality in the US.

  10. Peak Everything, Parts 1‒5, Richard Heinberg

    Duration: Approx 9:00 for each part

    In five short video presentations, Heinberg discussed the main ideas outlined in his influential 2007 book titled Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Decline.

Group Activities

  1. The pointy end of global climate change

    Submitted by: Blanche Higgins, RMIT University, Australia

    Activity description

    • Watch the trailer for the award-winning 2010 film There Once Was an Island: Te Henua E Nnoho
    • The activity is a role-play enactment of a conference that we imagine takes place in Auckland, New Zealand, to consider what should be done when the residents of the Pacific Island of Takuu are forced to abandon the coral atoll on which they and their ancestors have lived for thousands of years due to a devastating tidal flood.
    • Divide the group into the following five delegations ‒ could be individuals ‒ for the role-play: a) representatives of the island community; b) representatives of the New Zealand government; c) representatives of the Australian government; d) representatives of the Papua New Guinea government; e) representatives of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
    • Each delegation prepares for the meeting by considering what they can or cannot do in relation to the plight of the climate refugees.
    • Enact the round-table conference for whatever time can be allocated but no less than 20 minutes.
    • Hold a debriefing discussion in which all participants ‒ no longer in their roles ‒ discuss what it felt like to be in such negotiations.
    • Discuss the following: Did the talks make any headway? What were the biggest obstacles and what possibilities emerged from the talks?
  2. Environmental justice activity

    Submitted by: Blanche Higgins, RMIT University, Australia


    You ‒ individual or group acting as an individual ‒ are an environmental officer/planner working for a local council. The council has decided to build an e-waste recycling centre somewhere within its jurisdiction in order to reduce its ecological footprint. However, residents know that e-waste recycling produces some toxic air and water pollutants. You are responsible for recommending a preferred location for the plant to the elected council. The options are:

    • An old industrial estate where the surrounding population has high numbers of refugees and recently arrived migrants, and where household income levels are generally low; or
    • A park where the surrounding population is middle income and mainly white.

    The options have been reported in the local newspaper and the residents in the vicinity of the park in question are up in arms about the possibility of losing the park.


    Make a clear recommendation and provide a dot-point rationale for your decision.

    Discussion questions

    • To what extent do you think your own identity (e.g. race, gender, ethnicity) and life experience (e.g. family background and life history) influenced your decision?
    • What values underpinned your decision? Did they include considerations of equity, aesthetics, justice, social harmony?
    • Do you think your personal values are in line with those of people living in the community most directly affected by your decision? Do you think your personal values should carry more weight than those of the affected residents and, if so, why?
    • Can you justify your decision in terms of the RMIT Principles of Sustainability introduced in Chapter 2?