Book Review of 'Global Meltdown' by Joseph Wayne Smith, Graham Lyons, Evonne Moor

By Ted Wheelwright
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 9, Number 2 (Winter 1998-1999)
Issue theme: "Secure identification and immigration enforcement"

Global Meltdown Immigration, Multiculutralism, and National Breakdown in the New World Disorder

by Joseph Wayne Smith, Graham Lyons, and Evonne Moore

Westport, CT Praeger Publishers

185 pages, $59.95

This book has an arresting title, and with it four chapter headings to match (1) The Coming Anarchy The Collapse of Civilization and the Coming of Hell on Earth, (2) The Ecology of Collapse Technological and Ecological Mechanisms for the Destruction of Civilization, (3) The Remorseless Working of Things Population Collides with Environment, (4) Global Meltdown A Tapestry of Turmoil at the End of the Modern Age.

Although self-contained, the book develops the argument of the authors' previous book, Healing a Wounded World (1997) with the same publisher. This argued that human demands on the global ecosystem had already overshot its carrying capacity; consequently we live on ecological credit, stolen from future generations. Hence the phrase "future eating" - a term popularized by T. Flannery in his book The Future Eaters An Ecological History of the Australasian Islands and People (Reed Books, Melbourne, 1994).

The authors had argued in their previous book that the types of changes required to avert ecological disaster are too difficult to implement within a few decades. Hence environmental disaster is inevitable, which threatens the human race. This new book continues the theme and focuses on the breakdown of civilization and the resulting loss of life.

The first chapter, "The Coming Anarchy," argues that the world faces chaos and political disintegration over a long period of time. This process had already begun and is manifest in the acceleration of political disintegration leading to increasing crime, ethnic violence, and permanent refugees by the millions. This theme is taken from a book by L. Watson, appropriately titled Dark Nature A Natural History of Evil (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1995)

Central governments have begun to wither, regional and tribal identities are being revived, and fundamentalism of every stripe is becoming ever more obvious and more strident. Under the pressure of environmental and demographic stress, we are watching the old order crack or fragment into city states and ragged private armies (pp.250-1).

The authors' thesis is that the modern world is like a nuclear reactor undergoing meltdown. The forces interacting include environ-mental destruction, economic rationalism, globalization, tech-nology, immigration, multi-culturalism, and racial and ethnic conflict. It is argued that there can be no rebirth of an environmentally sensitive civilization, as the damage inflicted is already too great. Hence this is a "Doomsday Book" par excellence.

There is a formidable list of authors cited to corroborate the thesis that global change is out of control and a collapse of moral values has occurred, "with consumerism masquerading as a substitute."

America's shortcomings are outlined, from a greedy upper class, to widespread urban decay, a massive drug culture, and the propagation of moral corruption by the visual media. Its fate is said to reflect that of most nations. Environmental problems exacerbate the situation, and create additional sources of social conflict.

Other countries also have these problems in varying degree, and this leads to anarchy, as Kaplan noted in his recent celebrated articles in The Atlantic Monthly. Countries may be destabilized quickly, as in the case of Papua New Guinea. Sir James Goldsmith's book, The Trap, is cited with approval on immigration nations cannot allow themselves to be overwhelmed by it, otherwise they will lose their identity.

The first chapter concludes that as Western nation-states break down, globally organized crime begins to take over and the evolution of an international Mafia is noted. The collapse of civilization as we know it is on the agenda.

The next two chapters deal with the ecology of this collapse and the impact on the environment of increasing population. Australia is seen to be "heading toward extinction from ecological overshoot."

The final chapter emphasizes that the book has attempted an outline and defense of the global meltdown thesis - i.e., that "modern civilization is hurtling towards its doom." It notes that a fully detailed attempt has not been possible, but a shortened version rendered to show the initial plausibility of that thesis. The reader is invited to show that the authors are wrong.

It is suggested that the power of the nation state is flowing to multinational business, in a world where "global elites have decreed that the world shall be a cosmopolitan supermarket." The result, the authors conclude, is catastrophe. This is a powerful book which deserves to be widely read - unlikely because it is very heavy going. A shorter, more popular and readable edition is called for.

About the author

Ted Wheelwright teaches in the Department of Geography at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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