May 7, 2019

Book Review: The Third Curve by Mansoor Khan

"Karma", "Fate", "Destiny" - whatever be the name, it feels like I was MEANT TO read this book. Before I write about the book, let me share a quick story of how I ended up buying it. A few weeks back, we were roaming around Brigade Road and stopped at Blossoms Book Store. I was browsing through books on the ground floor and selected a few to buy, while my husband was on the third floor, sitting and reading a book. He kept it back on the shelf and we were walking back to our car. While we were driving home, he said, "You know, I was reading this book. You might like it. I have heard the author speak at IIMB a few years back". I was curious about this book but didn't follow through. After a couple of weeks, I was around Brigade Road, attending a personal finance workshop. The core topic of the workshop was all about growth, high returns from mutual funds and how the markets have fared well in the past 2 decades etc. Though the workshop was informative, I was walking back with a lot of questions running on my mind - how can we make an assumption that the markets would give similar high returns in the next 2 decades, why aren't we factoring in other critical issues like environmental degradation, climate change etc? After having lunch at a restaurant nearby, I told my husband, "Let's go and check if the book you recommended to me is still available in Blossoms". Sure enough, it was there on the very same shelf where my husband had kept it. I didn't glance much but intuitively I felt it was the right book for me. After purchasing it, I realized it was a signed copy by the author himself. That's the beauty of a second hand book store - you might get such surprises!

Coming to the book, the author Mansoor Khan has dealt with a very important topic - that perpetual exponential growth is impossible with earth's finite resources. In the first few chapters of the book, he has explained about the industrial revolution, our extreme dependencies on oil and our constant expectations of exponential growth. The "Concept vs Reality" approach he has used to explain the context and unravel the problem was thought-provoking and easy to understand.

These two passages hit the nail on the head - 

"The Earth is not a huge, inanimate hunk of mud, rock, ores, minerals etc that can spew out resources at whatever rate we wish for human purpose alone. It is not to be viewed as a storehouse of resources for us to extract, loot and dispose of........The Earth in fact is a complex organism. It is as living as each of us."

"A crazy and unreal concept of Perpetual Exponential Quantitative Growth (PEQG) of money leads to chasing and looting half the planet's energy and resources, disrupting ecosystems, fraying social structures and corrupting moral integrity."

After setting the premise of how our expectations of PEQG is unrealistic, the author talks about how we have crossed the Global Peak of oil production around 2005 and it is downhill from thereafter. Given our exponential growth and high dependency on oil, we don't have much time left until the remaining available oil is used up. 

There have been quite a hue and cry over alternative energy sources in the past couple of decades, but the author has explained in detail about how each of the proposed alternative energy sources fails to meet the 5 energy rules. I admit I felt all gloomy and depressed, reading about the lack of alternatives.

But the chapter on Transition gave me hope and clarity. And I will refer to this chapter more often, as my thoughts and ideologies seem to align with the proposed solution.

"We have to now first personally believe that small is beautiful, less is good, local is important, community is strength, sharing itself is charity and diversity is paramount."

Well researched, hard-hitting, thorough analysis and at the same time, easy to understand, I highly recommend this book to all who want to understand the hard reality - that the way we are consuming planet's resources is not sustainable in the long run and we need to take corrective action NOW. Changing our light bulbs to CFL or buying "energy efficient" refrigerators won't make much of a difference.
This book is available as a free download on the author's website. Do check it out.

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