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Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth Paperback – September 1, 2003
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Imagine you are first in line at a potluck buffet. The spread includes not just food and water, but all the materials needed for shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education. How do you know how much to take? How much is enough to leave for your neighbors behind you-not just the six billion people, but the wildlife, and the as-yet-unborn?
In the face of looming ecological disaster, many people feel the need to change their own lifestyles as a tangible way of transforming our unsustainable culture. Radical Simplicity is the first book that guides the reader to a personal sustainability goal, then offers a process to monitor progress to a lifestyle that is equitable amongst all people, species, and generations. It employs three tools to help readers begin their customized journey to simplicity:
- It builds on steps from Your Money or Your Life so readers can design their own personal economics to save money, get free of debt, and align their work with their values.
- It uses refined tools from Our Ecological Footprint so readers can measure how much nature is needed to supply all they consume and absorb their waste.
- And by advocating time alone in wild nature, it opens readers to another reality with humanity as one species among many on a complex and inter-related planet.
Combining lyrical narrative, compassionate advocacy and absorbing science, Radical Simplicity is a practical, personal answer to 21st century challenges that will appeal as much to Cultural Creatives and students as to spiritual seekers, policy makers and sustainability professionals.
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Top Customer Reviews
But he doesn't leave it at that. He's an engineer, and he gives you the analytical tools he used to evaluate the effects of his lifestyle on the world. First the bad news: if you make more than $10,000 a year or have more than one child, you're almost certainly using more than your share of Earth's resources (pages 70 and 84), which contributes to starvation and extinction. Now the good news: using tools borrowed from two other books (Your Money or Your Life and Our Ecological Footprint), Merkel shows how you can take charge of the flows of material in your life. He walks you through examples such as the environmental cost of e-mail vs. snail-mail (in his case, snail-mail had the smaller footprint; in my case, e-mail did).
Let's face it, the process of coming to terms with your own plunder of the world is stressful: a combination of accounting and soul-searching. But the end goal is a sustainable relationship with nature and a simpler, less stressful life. Radical simplicity provides the tools you need to get started.
The short answer is that it is, although the word collapse is a bit misleading. Over the last century, wars have claimed 175 million lives; and most, if not all, of those wars were fought to eliminate other humans, gain control land and resources, or maintain geopolitical and economic security. A third of the world's children suffer from malnutrition, of which tens of thousands die everyday, while, in the same amount of time, an estimated 100 to 1000 species vanish from the face of the planet. These are just a few symptoms of ecological collapse.
In order to talk about sustainability, says Merkel, we have to talk about ecological footprints. Your ecological footprint is the amount of bioproductive land and sea area in continuous production to supply all you use and to absorb all you waste. Global sustainability, then, is a combined ecological footprint of humanity that does not tax earth faster than it can regenerate. When humanity takes from the earth faster than it can replenish, things breakdown: fisheries collapse, soils erode, species vanish, aquifers run dry, etc. - things you might read about on page A-14 of the newspaper everyday.
"But how would I know if I am taking too much?" you ask. Ecological foot printing, says Merkel, is the best way to take the guesswork out of sustainability. "It allows us to measure our progress." But then, what is progress?Read more ›
This book is a top-level commentary about how evil middle class Westerners are, an endorsement of carbon footprinting, a view of the world as a zero-sum game, and, of course, the placement of the "nobel savage" on a lofty pedestal.
I am interested in downsizing, but not because of a guilty conscience.
I read "your money or your life" a few years ago, and found it much more helpful. Oddly, "Radical Simplicity" summarizes the earlier book in one chapter, and uses "your money..." as 1/3 of the book "how-to" content! The author should divulge that a large portion of the book is a summary of a previous work.
On the plus side, I really enjoyed the story about the Kerala area of India, where people are able to sustain a very comfortable society on very little money.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book takes what is usually presented theoretically - we should all simplify our lives in order to live better - to a more practical, let's-do-this level, with helpful... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Patty A. O'Connell
I really enjoyed this book. It really spoke to me and helped me realize that I do want to simplify my life. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Tanya Chan
I did really like that Jim's book starts from a place of his personal story which I could really relate to before he moved into the detailed nuts and bolts of how to make a... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
A complete new way of viewing our enormous impact on planet earth and the resources needed to provide for our day to day living styles. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Charles Roveti
The plan is ambitious, but worthy of our effort (my effort). While I was initially overwhelmed with the level of detail of consumption/resources (e.g. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Gregory Matos
The beginning was great- I liked his metaphors. It was dull towards the middle.Published 14 months ago by ANON18
not a lot new here, but good as a reminder that what we have is not our stuff.Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer