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The Five Horsemen of the Modern World

Climate, Food, Water, Disease, and Obesity

Daniel Callahan

(Columbia University Press, 2016)

In recent decades, we have seen five perilous and interlocking trends dominate global discourse: irreversible climate change, extreme food and water shortages, rising chronic illnesses, and rampant obesity. Why can’t we make any progress in counteracting these problems despite vast expenditures of intellectual, institutional, and social capital? What makes these global emergencies the “wicked problems” that resist our best efforts and only grow more daunting?

Daniel Callahan, cofounder of The Hastings Center, a noted author and the nation’s preeminent scholar in bioethics, examines these global problems and shines a light on the institutions, practices, and actors that block major change. We see partisan political and ideological forces, old-fashioned hucksters, and trumped-up scientific disagreements but also the problem of modern progress itself. Obesity, anthropogenic climate change, degnerative diseases, ecological degradation, and global famine are often the unintended consequences of unchecked industrial growth, insatiable eating habits, and technologically extended life spans. Only through well-crafted political, regulatory, industrial, and cultural counterstrategies can we change enough minds to check these threats. With big thinking on issues that are usually evaluated separately, this book is sure to scramble partisan divides and provoke unusual, heated debate.

Purchase from Columbia University Press