Author sees hope for humanity, will make appearance at Baraboo bookstore

January 5, 2019

The good news, according to a new book, is that humans aren’t on the verge of doom. The bad news is we have a lot of work to do.

“The Cooperative Society: The Next Stage of Human History” contends humanity is in many ways better off than it has ever been. But there are causes for concern that prompt a call to action, and author E.G. Nadeau will share those perspectives today at the Village Booksmith in downtown Baraboo.

“Will we trend toward being a better society?” he asked. “Are we moving toward a more cooperative society or not?”

He and son Luc Nadeau sifted through statistics from the United Nations, Forbes magazine, government websites, nonprofit agencies and other sources to take a long, big-picture view of the human race’s progress. Tonight they’ll discuss “The Cooperative Society” and suggest what readers can do to improve the world.

“They’ll be able to participate in a rousing discussion about these trends, based on science,” Nadeau said.

The bookstore has long been a popular gathering spot for Friday-night events.

“Offering a venue for people to examine new ideas and trends is a top priority of our shop, and E.G.’s work certainly falls into that category,” said owner Rob Nelson.

The Madison author holds a doctorate in sociology and, before retiring, spent decades creating and researching cooperatives in the U.S. and in developing countries. He previously wrote two books about cooperatives that prompted him to analyze whether the core values of co-ops — democracy, emphasis on the common good, equitable distribution of resources and sustainability — are at work around the world.

“I wanted to jump into that broader look at the evolution of our society,” Nadeau said.

He enlisted his son, an ecologist, to help research and develop “The Cooperative Society.” It originally was published in 2016. A second edition, featuring updated data and more elaborate analysis of some issues, was released in October.

The book delivers good news. It contends humans may be on the threshold of a new age characterized by cooperation, democracy, the equitable distribution of resources and a sustainable relationship with nature.

“This tightly organized book will make you think and give you reason to hope,” said Michael Sherraden, a social science professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The authors found health care is better than ever, and there’s enough food to meet our species’ need, leading to longer lifespans. About half of us live in democracies, fewer people are living in extreme poverty, and the level of conflict around the world is near its lowest level in 5,000 years. World wars haven’t raged for decades, and murder rates are in decline.

“We are not as violent a people as we used to be,” Nadeau said.

While humanity is making progress, it’s far from reaching utopia. Extreme inequality in economic and political power is common around the world. And although we have the tools to stabilize our climate, we haven’t taken adequate steps to do so.

“There’s still time to make a correction,” Nadeau said. “There are mixed signals.”

The book is available at stores and at amazon.com, but the authors also placed it on their website and invited readers to download it free. So far 1,600 have done so.

“We’re happy with it because it indicates people are paying attention to what we’re saying,” Nadeau said. “The more important thing for me is that we get the book out there.”

Although it has been published, the book isn’t a finished product. The authors plan to update it through 2030, the target date for the Paris Accord on Climate Change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As the data change, so will the authors’ suggested responses.

“All these things are going to evolve over the next decade,” Nadeau said.

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