Bruce Nixon Bruce Nixon

LIVING SYSTEM: Making sense of sustainability


Who changes the world? The answer is all of us!
(Independent 16-6-2006)

Making Sense of Sustainability

LIVING SYSTEM is a radical new book about sustainability in the broadest sense - climate change, the inability of the Earth to meet human needs if we carry on as now, and equally important, global social and economic justice and an end to violence.  These aspects are inseparably linked. As we see in Africa and elsewhere, the poor are the first to suffer.

There are forewords by Dame Anita Roddick, UK, and Margaret Wheatley, USA, “It’s Just Our Turn To Help The World” and many endorsements – see below.

The big challenge is to get the book out into the world. Please help by "spreading the word". We have some wonderful endorsements -- see below -- and reviews. Ask your library or university library to get a copy for you; get it into your local school. Help get it onto the shelves of the big book chains and your independent local bookshop - thus giving them your vital support - and suggest they get extra copies to put on their shelves. It has a striking and attractive cover. You can order it from Waterstone’s, Borders, or Blackwell’s in the UK, or from in USA. If you order from Amazon or Tesco on line, please put in a reader’s comment and rate it for me. However, you may wish to take into account that their discounts undermine both high street book sellers and publishers. You can order direct from my publisher who may be able to offer a discount.


The book takes a broad, whole system look at the situation at the beginning of 21st Century. The system gets in the way of our changing things for the better. This is why progress in tackling the urgent issues of climate change and poverty is so slow. We need to understand and address the system rather than create a wild succession of short-term fixes that don’t work. Inequalities in wealth and power have grown enormously, rather than lessened, since the seventies. Efforts to help poor countries have largely failed. 

Our situation requires bold, radical ideas. This is what the book provides. It speaks plainly. Many “ordinary people” instinctively reject a consumption driven society in which progress is measured by increasing GDP. The book articulates and substantiates their doubts, challenges conventional wisdom, turns it upside down, (e.g. the vast debt-money and perverse taxation systems) and proposes a new agenda for the 21st Century. It offers a fresh vision of how things could be given the resources and know-how we have today.

It gets to the root of things - seeing the world as a living system. This is the uniquely useful perspective of the book. A living system, if not respected, hits back harshly. That is what is happening. Climate change, degradation of the soil, water and oil shortage and the loss of species are warnings. People react unpredictably too! That is one of the lessons of Iraq. War, domination and technological solutions alone are not workable strategies - though technology can play a part.

It is a radical, big picture book. It challenges conventional thinking about economics, progress and how to bring how to bring about change. It takes a radical, look at politics and big business. It challenges the current economic system, including commonly accepted free market doctrines – mono thinking and monoculture - and the values underlying it. Respect for diversity and cultures we do not understand is needed. The book exposes unconscious forces that drive leaders - the "beast within" us all - denial, ego and groupthink. It examines the failures of current attempts to bring about change. Old, top down ways that ignore people on the ground are not working. It proposes better ways. It uncovers the part unconscious racism plays in foreign policy and globalisation. Wars on terror and Iraq are wasteful, terrible distractions from the real crises we face. This is why we have lost confidence in political and corporate leaders. A better balance of male/female energies may save us from ourselves.

It’s a people's book – easy to read, hopeful and inspiring. There is a chapter on crazy idealists and heroes who have changed and are changing the world – ordinary, extraordinary pioneers. Whilst sometimes shocking, it is not a gloomy book. It is constructive, optimistic, full of good news. It aims to wake up people to the urgency of the challenge and mobilise everyone’s passion and energy to take their power to change things. There is a lot of positive news about successful models from all over the world. It is full of pictures - pictures often speak louder than words.

It is both strategic and down to earth with practical strategic proposals ranging from global to local and what you and I and anyone can do.

There is a lot in the book about so-called "third world" countries and a whole chapter on Jamaica, a country I know well.  Aid does not work in the long term - yes, it is necessary in the emergency of now - but we need to stop being greedy, imperialistic, imposing our solutions. We need more to remove obstacles and support countries in finding their own unique solutions.


Forewords by Dame Anita Roddick and Margaret Wheatley
  1. The wonderful world at the beginning of the 21st Century
  2. The down side - the environmental crisis; global economic and social injustice
  3. Business is a major force for good
  4. Business does great harm
  5. A confidence crisis for big business – falling out of love with Big Co
  6. Loss of confidence in political leadership – the politics of the playground on the world stage in deadly form
  7. The root of the current crisis: values – the need for a better balance of male and female energies - psychopath and narcissist leaders.
  8. Making sense of globalisation - seeing the system; racism money and debt
  9. A New Agenda for the 21st Century
  10. How to change things for the better - for everyone
  11. A visit to Jamaica – Heaven and Hell
  12. Crazy Idealists and Heroes
  13. Lessons from History
  14. A better way – living and working sustainably: working with nature, respecting diversity, considering other peoples; strategic and practical action with heart.




Exciting, thought provoking, dynamic, irritating, inspiring, passionate and occasionally enraged, Bruce Nixon forces us to re-evaluate our lives. His philosophy, that of core sustainability, just might hold the key to greater happiness for us all.

Kevin McCloud, journalist, television presenter and WWF ambassador.


An excellent read – personal, immediate and accessible based on much of the author’s own multi-faceted life experience. The book is universal in its scope and aimed at each of us, our personal choices and their application in every day life.  We are all hopefully essential, integral and integrated components of “living systems”.  The book is about living within Gaia’s constraints and always remembering that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory!

Diana Schumacher, Environmentalist.


This is both a very wise and a very human book. Its greatest strength is that it weaves together the radical changes needed at the global level with the changes each of us can make today in our own lives and shows how both are part of the same living system. It is passionately pro enterprise and passionately against the abuse of corporate power. It truly shows how we can move towards an “economics that works for people and the planet”. I endorse it in the strongest possible terms.

Stewart Wallis, Executive Director, nef (the new economics foundation)


The contest between forces of life and forces of anti-life is the epic struggle of our times. The rule of abstract notions of economic growth and globalisation is destroying life on earth. In "Living System" Bruce Nixon takes us back to the basics of the processes that threaten life and processes that maintain and nurture life.

Dr Vandana Shiva, Leading Environmentalist and Director of the Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India 


This powerful book highlights the choice we face; if a minority of powerful nations continue to enforce an economic system under pinned by centralised technologies and vulnerable supply lines, they will need to protect it with a huge world wide police force at enormous expense and risk to all our civil liberties. On the other hand, if we all begin a shift to decentralised world economy based on equitable and efficient use of energy, renewable energy sources, and re-localised supply systems, we can create communities that no terrorist organisation can easily threaten and, perhaps more importantly, which threaten no one else.

Paul Allen, Development Director, Centre for Alternative Technology


This is not just another explanation of the problems of the world. Its ambition is to make links, provide context and, above all, promote thought and a response. If you want to be an active citizen, give it a try; it might just change the way you think about the world.

Benedict Southworth, Director WDM, campaigning for justice for the world's poor


I really hope you will read this book. Treat it as a journey, on which you travel with Bruce Nixon to excavate and examine the foundations of our society and its ecological systems. Become angry over the injustice of poverty, alarmed at the destruction of our natural world, aware of the dilemmas that face us all and hopeful at the new renaissance that is unfolding. It is rare to find a book that is both illuminating and accessible. Read it and go on your own journey.

Barry Coates, Executive Director, Oxfam New Zealand


If you want to shift your focus from a culture of control to a culture of participation then this powerful book will prove to be your best and invaluable companion.  This is a good guide to sustainability - do not only read it but act upon it.  

Satish Kumar, founder of the Small School and Director of Programmes at Schumacher College, Editor of Resurgence, Devon, England.


In our increasingly busy lives we should welcome anything that helps to introduce a breath of fresh air, but Bruce Nixon's book does more than this. This book demands readers take responsibility for their decisions and life choices but, in return, it highlights the potential for new outcomes that could be achieved to benefit us all. It is a challenging read for those who will engage with the issues, but it also offers fresh optimism to those who recognise the opportunities of the positive future it outlines for the planet, if we dare to take the path.

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Chief Executive, Garden Organic, formerly Henry Doubleday Research Association.


No matter where you live - from northern industrial societies to the developing south - we are heading into a climate change crisis that will threaten food security, the management of water and sustainable energy.  The globalisation agenda of big corporations just accelerates the problem.  We have to have a different starting point for surviving and living differently.  Bruce Nixon explores this crisis and offers a different set of choices about where we can start from and what we must do.  Everyone of us needs to address the challenges he explores and begin to make the changes needed to survive....while we have time to do so. 

Alan Simpson, Member of Parliament, Nottingham South, nominee for ITN Ecohero Award 


Bruce Nixon writes with insight, intelligence and grace, showing us that we can and must discover and act on our shared vision for a healthy, sustainable world. We all stand at the edge of the unknown, having never confronted such pace of change and growing harm to the air we breath, the water we drink and the societies we build. We can chose to nurture instead of destroy. We can choose to tolerate our differences instead of aggress against them. We can choose to come together instead of pull apart. Bruce’s ideas and understandings encourage positive possibilities and that, to me, is a sign of hope and love.  It is my pleasure to encourage everyone who cares to read this book.

Sandra Janoff, Ph.D., Co-Director, Future Search Network, Wynnewood, PA, USA


This book’s strength is its optimism. It is not afraid to set out all the problems we face, bringing in witnesses where appropriate, and it would be easy to despair at the mountains to be climbed, but it also draws together example of initiatives that are going in the right direction, examples of people standing up to the problems and deciding to do something different. All the examples of initiatives that are changing people’s lives should persuade readers that the world does not have to be like this. An inspiring book”

Stephen Joseph OBE - Executive Director Transport 2000: Putting people and the environment first - the campaign for sustainable transport.


Bruce Nixon has compiled much interesting material both to point out the problems of today's world and to indicate where we might go from here. The challenges are vast, and only a quantum jump in problem solving will now do.  

Herbert Girardet, author, consultant and filmmaker on sustainability and sustainable cities.


It’s no longer a question of whether we recognise the threat of climate change, its what we now do about it – collectively and individually. Just as the Environmental Audit Select Committee is set up to investigating how well sustainable development policy is integrated into government policy, so this book challenges individuals to scrutinise their own stance and their own action. The challenge of climate change is here and doing nothing is not an option. Its about what we can do.

Joan Walley, MP (Lab), Parliamentary Environmental Audit Select Committee


I warmly welcome the integrity of Living Systems. The behaviour of companies of all sizes have fundamentally changed in response to globalisation, yet at a deep spiritual level, we need to appreciate fully that we are in the universe, the universe is within us and that the universe and us are connected.

Dr. Neslyn Watson-Druée, MBE, FRCN, D Univ, FCGI, pioneer honoured for her work in promoting diversity in nursing


‘Ordinary people change the world' says Bruce Nixon in this challenging book.  Take that seriously: be challenged: read this book.

Ron Bailey, Campaign Organiser, Local Works, Campaigning for a Local Communities Bill to empower people to improve their local communities 


A challenging and insightful book which not only brings out the problems faced by the world but also provides a positive view of where we could be if we take the right action today. Hopefully this book will inspire its readers to take such action.

Norman Baker, MP, Chair of the All-Party Environment Group


This book is very easy to browse through.   Anyone who reads it will be enlightened by its contents and feel encouraged to make that extra effort towards changing our wasteful and materialistic culture into a sustainable one. Many examples in the book show how just one person can make a huge difference in changing the thinking of our wasteful and materialistic culture into a sustainable one.  ‘A pebble dropped into a pool will cause the water to ripple outwards, so too can each person through their actions contribute to this growing movement of ecologically minded human beings.

Robin Joffre, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and concerned citizen of the earth, Montreal.



LIVING SYSTEM - Making Sense of Sustainability published July 2006, Management Books 2000, ISBN: 1-85252-519-3

You can order my books from your local book shop, Waterstone's, Borders, or Blackwell's in the UK, or from in USA. If you order from Amazon or Tesco on line, please put in a reader's comment and rate it for me. However, you may wish to take into account that their discounts undermine both high street booksellers and publishers. You can order direct from my publisher - who may be able to offer a discount -- see below and here:

To order, contact:

Nick Dale-Harris
Management Books 2000
Address: Forge House, Limes Road, Kemble, Glos GL7 6AD
Tel: (44) 01285-771441/2; Fax: (44) 01285-771055
Web Page:

Other books by Bruce Nixon: Making a Difference - strategies and tools for transforming your organisation, 1998, UK and USA and 2001, soft back UK and Global Forces - a guide for enlightened leaders - what companies and individuals can do, 2000, updated March 2003, valued by business people, professionals, academics and students.

Bruce Nixon, MA (Oxon) CFCIPD. After a corporate career in UK and overseas, Bruce started his consulting business in 1987 based in Berkhamsted. He has published many articles. This is his fourth book, his first for general readers.

Bruce Nixon, Berkhamsted, July 2006

  Copyright ©2004-2011 Bruce Nixon. All rights reserved.