John Rattray’s 5 Lockdown Books

John Rattray. Photo: Owen Tozer

1.Limits To Growth: The 30 Year Update by Meadows, Meadows and Randers.

“I’m slowly reading this right now. In the early 1970’s, a group of M.I.T. economists who specialise in system dynamics built a growth model looking at the capacity for the finite resources of our planet to support continued growth in population and human industry. I’m reading the 30-year update. It’s beautifully written and gives a great overview of their methodologies and the foundational principles on which our global economy has been built. They present a number of scenarios, both pessimistic and optimistic. Pretty sure this will be a mandatory reading requirement for me once finished”.

Read it here.

2. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

“This is mandatory reading for understanding evolution by natural selection from the post-Darwin vantage point of genetics. Dawkins 1975 book managed to both articulate the concepts in a way that anyone can grasp as well as push the science of evolution to a new place in academia. As part of the work, he does a good job of showing how altruism is a logical and naturally-occurring survival mechanism. This is Dawkins at his evolutionary-biology best rather than his later writing around atheism”.

(“I tend to question how helpful that later work has been — The God Delusion and whatnot*. That stuff seems like it just enflames peoples inherent implicatory denial, rather than actually persuading anyone except the choir. But maybe that’s just me.
*I haven’t actually read The God Delusion by the way. Just exercising my right to speak freely about something without doing the due diligence haha”.)

Read it here.

3. Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression — And The Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

“Hari is a brilliant journalist and speaker. Check out some of his TED talks. Here he investigates the history and progression of depression in the modern world and, thankfully, some solutions. Look it up. Read about it online. I recommend this one to anyone trying to get a better understanding of mental health in general and some practical ideas of how to tackle it when things get rocky for ourselves or our loved ones”.

Read it here.

4. The Long Descent by John Michael Greer

“I read this when I was deep in a peak-oil/post-carbon economy phase. I took a permaculture class at the local college and everything. I’m not really out of that phase I suppose, just not quite as deep. Anyway, John Michael Greer is a druid dude and is well-read in all-things industrialized-global-economy/fossil-fuel related. This book is his analysis and view of what a post-fossil fuel world might look like and what it might look like as we get there by the process of catabolic collapse. In principle, as far as I can recall, it’s pretty much based on the thinking that came out of the Limits-to-Growth work, noted above. It’s all-in-all a hopeful outlook but one that still requires work and sacrifice on our part as a species”.

Read it here.

5. The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur

“I can’t sum this one up better that his own write-up from his website:
‘This is Harpur’s most radical and groundbreaking work to date, in which he digs deep into the origins of Christianity and how the early Christian church covered up all attempts to reveal the Bible as myth.
What began as a universal belief system has become a ritualistic institution headed by ultraconservative literalists. As he reconsiders a lifetime of worship and study, Harpur reveals a cosmic faith built on these truths that the modern church has renounced. His message is clear: our blind faith in literalism is killing Christianity. Only with a return to an inclusive religion where Christ lives within each of us will we gain a true understanding of who we are and who we are intended to become.’
Well-worth checking out if you’re interested in the practical usefulness of religion in life and community, but then they lose you with all the weird supernatural parts that tend to get thrown in the mix”.

Read it here.

Other recommmendations:

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan — “Pollan investigates the resurgence in use of psychedelics to treat depression, PTSD, addiction and the hopeful results in the field so far. Good stuff”.
Dune by Frank Herbert — “Classic sci-fi! Possibly one of the best sci-fi novels ever written. Themes are layered within themes of globalization, war over resources, terrorism, power, good, evil, ethics…etc…”
Waking Up, Alive by Richard Heckler — “Analysis of a ton of cases in which therapist Richard Heckler has worked with people getting back to full mental health after having got all the way down to the depths of suicide attempt. Ultimately a hopeful book”.
The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic and The Carpet People all by Terry Pratchett — “Some fun to lift you back up again”.

Want to read:
Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in the 21st Century by John Michael Greer
Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush by John Michael Greer