I was worried that this book was going to be all hyperbole and not a lot of substance. Braden has a bit of a love affair with dramatic phrases like, “the most difficult question” and “the greatest crisis we face” and “the greatest challenge” and “the most profound question,” which would be okay if he used them more sparingly. As is, though, I felt like there was a critical and profound question or issue every other page.
Luckily, as I read more, I became accustomed to Braden’s language and was able to look past the drama and hear his, what I ultimately felt to be, very important message.
The gist of it is this: we are living in a unique point in history. Humankind is facing a lot of big changes that are happening fast and now. The world’s population is skyrocketing, increasing our demand for limited resources, especially food. This, in turn, causes an increased need for energy (oil). At the same time, many countries, especially those sharing the most common currency, are in massive debt; this puts increasing pressure on economic systems around the world. Plus, there is no longer any doubt that our climate is changing, though we aren’t quite sure why or how much.
Braden stresses that it is very important that people acknowledge this time of extremes and the potential negative outcomes that we may face in the near future. To not acknowledge the reality of these issues, Braden says, constitutes a “crisis in thinking,” a nebulous phrase that he repeats often throughout this book.
Once we do acknowledge the existence of these problems, however, Braden believes we will finally be able to move on to solutions. We still have time to “do what it takes to avoid the tipping points of climate change, peak oil, and peak debt.”
The solution begins by redefining “the story of us.” Braden argues that our traditional beliefs about ourselves (especially in the Western world) are inaccurate. Contrary to the belief that the world is random and cruel, and that “only the strong survive,” he asserts that, in reality, human life shows unmistakable signs of design and that nature relies upon the concepts of cooperation and mutual aid to perpetuate itself. Interestingly enough, I found this section to be one of the most interesting parts of the book, and, ironically, he doesn’t go into much detail. (Apparently, he covers these topics more fully in two of his other popular books, Deep Truth and The Divine Matrix).
At any rate, by redefining how we see ourselves, we can better face the challenges that lie ahead. According to Braden, the solutions we need will be community-based and will require personal resilience developed before all hell breaks loose. I actually really appreciated Braden’s suggestions for and observations about cultivating personal resilience. For example:
- Our ability to meet life’s challenges hinges upon how well we know ourselves.
- Personal resilience can be developed through self-knowledge, a sense of hope, healthy coping skills, strong interpersonal relationships, and personal meaning.
- There are various coping strategies to help you get through times of crisis, such as being physically healthy, scaling back commitments, exercising regularly, making sleep a priority, connecting with other people, learning to relieve your stress through activities you enjoy, and seeking professional help if you need it.
- It’s important to develop your own sense of what the world is all about, how you fit into it, and where you belong.
Braden believes that the solution to our future problems, especially those concerning food and energy shortages (Braden sees renewable energy as the most important issue to address in the immediate future), will be solved at a community-level. He recommends, among other things, eating locally; using local, renewable resources particular to your region (e.g., the American southwest should use solar energy since that area is very sunny almost year-round); and, most importantly, allowing local people to make decisions about their own area’s needs.
While I enjoyed reading this book, and am very interested in reading Braden’s other books, I must admit that Turning Point is incredibly dense and covers some pretty heavy, depressing subject matter. It’s just hard to think about these huge, daunting issues. Sure, Braden explains things in terms a layperson (like myself) can understand, but it still took me some time – and mental fortitude! – to slog through this book.
If you are interested in knowing more about the effects that climate change, national debt, increased world population, and decreased energy sources will have on our world – and if you want to know how you can equip yourself and your community now to deal with the consequences of the unique and big changes that are coming – you will want to read Turning Point. It won’t be a light read, but it will be a worthwhile one.