What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Earth's Library: Estimating Book Publishing Trends Related to Climate Change

December 1, 2012, 11:09 AM
Tree_rings

For a study I am working on this semester while on sabbatical at Harvard University, I wanted to try to estimate book publishing trends over time related to climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, and population growth. After consulting with several librarians, my best option was to estimate these publishing trends by way of the WorldCat.org database which compiles library holdings across countries. In the figure below, based on a search of the WorldCat database, I plot the number of books by year and catalog subject term, using library holdings as a proxy for books published per year.

The trends are interesting. First, the sheer number of books published are amazing.  Consider that since 1970 more than 180,000 books have been published on energy conservation and renewable energy; more than 65,000 focused on biodiversity, species, and natural resource conservation; more than 40,000 focused on sustainable development and the environmental aspects of globalization; more than 34,000 on climate change, global warming, or global environmental change; and more than 6,000 books on over-population and population policy.

Second, notice the explosion of books during the 1970s on energy conservation and renewable energy and then the leveling off during the 1980s.  Also notice following the 1992 Rio Environment Summit the rise in books published focused on sustainable development and biodiversity.  Though starting in the mid-2000s as climate change-related books spiked, publishing on these other topics declined, perhaps representing the tendency during this period for climate change to be a meta-problem through which most other environmental issues were viewed and discussed.  Finally, despite its linkages since the 1970s to environmental degradation and later to climate change, overpopulation as a topic has not received nearly the same focus by book publishers and authors as the other topics tracked.

What do readers think of these trends?  Know of other ways to estimate book publishing trends over time?  Ideas on other interpretations of these trends or uses for the WorldCat.org database?

 

Slide1

 

Earth's Library: Estimating...

Newsletter: Share: