Indra's Net and the Midas Touch

Indra's Net and the Midas Touch

Living Sustainably in a Connected World

By Leslie Paul Thiele

An exploration of the impact of unintended consequences in an interdependent world and of the opportunities for creativity and community.

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An exploration of the impact of unintended consequences in an interdependent world and of the opportunities for creativity and community.

We live today in a global web of interdependence, connected technologically, economically, politically, and socially. As a result of these expanding and deepening interdependencies, it has become impossible fully to control—or foretell—the effects of our actions. The world is rife with unintended consequences. The first law of human ecology—which declares that we can never do merely one thing—is a truth we ignore at our peril. In Indra's Net and the Midas Touch, Leslie Paul Thiele explores the impact of interdependence and unintended consequences on our pursuit of sustainability.

Unfortunately, good intentions provide no antidote to the law of unintended consequences, and proffered cures often prove worse than the disease. Biofuels developed for the purpose of reducing carbon emissions, for example, have had the unintended effect of cutting off food supplies to the needy and destroying rain forests. We must fundamentally transform our patterns of thinking and behavior. Thiele offers the intellectual and moral foundations for this transformation, drawing from ecology, ethics, technology, economics, politics, psychology, physics, and metaphysics. Awareness of our interconnectedness, he writes, stimulates creativity and community; it is a profound responsibility and a blessing beyond measure.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262016094 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure


$16.00 X ISBN: 9780262518772 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure


  • We live mostly in the illusion of separation in a world stitched together in more ways than we can fathom...Indra's Net and the Midas Touch is a profound meditation on a deeper reality that grounds the conversation about sustainability in a world of paradox, irony, and ultimately hope that lies beyond mere gadgetry.

    David W. Orr

    Paul Searls Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College; James Marsh Professor, University of Vermont; author of Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse

  • Drawing expertly on ecology and ethics, economics and politics, and more, in Indra's Net and the Midas Touch Leslie Paul Thiele crafts moral principles for sustainable living. The goal, Thiele argues, is not to be better technologists or better consumers or better managers, nor to find 'the solution.' It is to constantly adapt and thrive, individually and collectively, in one's place in this interdependent, dynamic world.

    Thomas Princen

    author of Treading Softly and The Logic of Sufficiency

  • Well-written, illuminating, and erudite, this book demonstrates a breadth of sound interdisciplinary scholarship that explores themes of interdependence and unintended consequences. Its originality lies primarily in the connections it allows the reader to observe across diverse fields.

    John M. Meyer

    Department of Politics, Humboldt State University; coeditor of The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice and author of Political Nature

  • Leslie Paul Thiele demonstrates why humanity is on an unsustainable path, but his book also explains the sort of thinking that can help us to become more resilient. He takes concepts rooted in the hard sciences and re-situates them in social science and humanities theories to clearly explain two significant points. First, that sustainability, either as a concept or a prescription, is not monolithic and, secondly, that the world is more complex and surprising than we think.

    Amy L. Lovecraft

    Department of Political Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • It is in some ways a state-of-the-planet report, of which there are many, but Indra's Net and the Midas Touch also does quite a lot more. It offers a way of thinking that might serve to chart a route into a safe and happy future.

    Jules Pretty

    Times Higher Education