The Next World War: Tribes, Cities, Nations, and Ecological Decline


328 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8603-9
DDC 363.7




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


Roy Woodbridge’s thesis is that humanity’s chief enemy is ecological
decline. This decline consists of the drawing down of “natural
capital” (broadly, the sum of the natural resources needed to support
life and well-being) in combination with a saturation of the capacities
of the earth to absorb wastes of all kinds. Unless there is a concerted
effort in the coming decades to reverse this trend, with the
replenishment and equitable distribution of natural capital, the result
will be global environmental conflict on a massive scale.

The chief merit of Woodbridge’s book is the quality and range of the
analysis, under a new root metaphor or conceptual framework that he
calls Global Provisioning. There is, for instance, a good discussion of
bio-regionalism (the sustainable economics of regional biological and
ecological systems) in terms of the relations, within a bio-system,
between urban and rural economies. The term “Global Provisioning”
was chosen to distance the author’s ideas from the “tired mantra”
of sustainable development. It remains true that many of Woobridge’s
ideas rest on sustainable development as popularized by the Brundtland
Commission as well as Paul Hawken’s powerful theory of natural

Where the book falls down is in the ways to meet the challenge of
ecological war. Woodbridge poses the question of how the world could
coalesce around Global Provisioning. His own suggestion of new and
transformed international institutions is scarcely convincing without a
mass popular movement to ensure that they work. To be effective, such a
movement would have to combine a quasi-religious fervour and conviction
with a belief in selected environmental technologies that Woodbridge
describes so well. This is a rare combination in environmental
movements, which are generally opposed to technological fixes. The most
plausible origin for such a movement would lie in a series of
environmental disasters that would compromise the basis of the very
progress toward Global Provisioning to which the movements aspire.


Woodbridge, Roy., “The Next World War: Tribes, Cities, Nations, and Ecological Decline,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 3, 2023,