Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond includes four sets of studies. Seven chapters discuss some of the clearest, most familiar, most striking examples of past collapses: the ends of Polynesian societies on Henderson and Pitcairn Islands, where everybody either did abandon the island or else ended up dead; the end of the Viking settlements on Greenland, which similarly disappeared completely; the disappearance of Anasazi settlements in desert areas of the U.S. Southwest; the decline and abandonment of Classic Maya cities in the Southern Maya lowlands, while Maya cities survived outside those southern lowlands; and the decline of Easter Island’s Polynesian society, famous for erecting giant stone statues.

Apologies to the Grandchildren by William Ophuls is a collection of essays that throw light on questions of ecological collapse, the connection between the ecological crisis and the breakdown of liberal democracy, and what society will look like when we exhaust solar capital in the form of fossil fuels and must live once again on the daily and seasonal flow of solar income. This book illuminates the forces that will determine the long-term future of humanity.

Resilience Thinking offers a different way of understanding the world and a new approach to managing resources. It embraces human and natural systems as complex entities continually adapting through cycles of change, and seeks to understand the qualities of a system that must be maintained or enhanced in order to achieve sustainability. It explains why greater efficiency by itself cannot solve resource problems and offers a constructive alternative that opens up options rather than closing them down. Written by Carl Folke, Stephen R. Carpenter, Brian Walker, Marten Scheffer, Terry Chapin and Johan Rockström.

In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophesies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In 75 jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide.

In On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees argues that humanity’s prospects depend on our taking a very different approach to planning for tomorrow. The future of humanity is bound to the future of science and hinges on how successfully we harness technological advances to address our challenges.

Panarchy is the structure in which systems, including those of nature (e.g., forests) and of humans (e.g., capitalism), as well as combined human-natural systems (e.g., institutions that govern natural resource use such as the Forest Service), are interlinked in continual adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems brings together leading thinkers on the subject. Edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling.

It is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. In Doughnut Economics, she sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does.

Transition Network is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. Here we explain what it is, why people do it, how the movement started and give you a sense of our underpinning principles and approach

Image from Nicolas Raymond at Creative Commons

The vision of the Stockholm Resilience Centre is a world where social-ecological systems are understood, governed and managed, to enhance human well-being and the capacity to deal with complexity and change, for the sustainable co-evolution of human civilizations with the biosphere. The mission of the centre is to advance research for governance and management of social-ecological systems to secure ecosystem services for human well-being and resilience for long-term sustainability. The centre applies and further develops the scientific achievements of this research within practice, policy and academic training.

Image from Dan Shore at Creative Commons