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Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle Paperback – December 26, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


“David Wann makes a compelling case that the current fiscal squeeze is really a good thing in Simple Prosperity. A coauthor of the best selling Affluenza, he covers a lot of solution-oriented ground, from conscientious consumption and cohousinig to building human-scale neighborhoods and dismantling the fossil fuel economy...” ―Utne Reader

“This book is full of wisdom for real living; and it will help you find a kind of wealth that's woven right within the fabric of everyday life.” ―Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters

“We've reached a point in our planet's history when nothing less than fundamental change is needed. In his book Simple Prosperity, David Wann proposes that we move away from an obsession with material wealth to an abundance of time, relationships, and experiences.” ―Wendy Priesnitz, editor, Natural Life Magazine

Simple Prosperity reads like a well-loved novel, engaging and educational. David Wann offers creative solutions to the challenges of over- consumption and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read.” ―Jill Cloutier, Producer, Sustainable World Radio, KCSB

“This book can help you reassess your goals. Our overconsumptive lifestyle is out of sync with our real values, says David Wann, and we can find greater contentment by creating vibrant communities, right-sizing our homes, valuing our time, and nurturing our health.” ―Debra Jones, Sierra Magazine

“Living a life that is outwardly simple while inwardly rich could well be the great challenge of the 21st century. Wann provides an accessible road map.” ―Rebecca Jones, Rocky Mountain News

Simple Prosperity outlines a different vision for American society. A society that focuses on wealth in community and health and love instead of monetary wealth. Simple Prosperity gives thought on HOW to take a step back from the massive amounts consuming and advertising and find your own brand of happiness.” ―A Deeper Green Blog

“I shut the back cover of Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle and slid it into my library bag. It was an interesting read: more affirming than eye opening, more a map than a book. Throughout Simple Prosperity, David Wann directs us along a road toward a more meaningful life - one that we build instead of buy. He points out the pitfalls, jots down directions to the scenic back roads and promises a worthwhile destination - a well-lived life.” ―Green Bean Dreams blog

“Wann poses a very provocative question: If the lifestyle we've been leading is making a mess of the environment, using up many of the world's resources and leaving us queasy as a culture, why not just move on to something else? The strongest feature of Simple Prosperity is its ability to direct us in understanding who we are and what we want, resulting in a greater sense of clarity and direction.” ―Bette Erickson, Boulder Daily Camera

“With some economic hard times erupting in addition to the environmental challenges that are beginning to hit the fan, here is a book that looks at the bright side of cutting back. With Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, David Wann, co-author of Affluenza, wants to turn the American Dream on its head--from a focus on the accumulation of wealth to the dream of investing in things that really matter: communities. "social capital," wellness, and a better way of life. And all this works in tandem with cuttinig energy use, localizing our neighborhoods, and foregoing our dependence on fossil fuels.” ―Less is More Blog

“The idea that overconsumption is a fundamental problem, not solution, in the maintenance of a healthy economy and planet is not a new idea, but I've never heard it articulated so clearly and succinctly before as in Simple Prosperity - and it is already helping me to think about things in a new light.” ―Mark Wagner blog

“This is a valuable and concise digest of much that we've figured out in recent years, about health, stress, joy, community. The only thing it won't tell you how to do is make more money; instead, it will let you see that you may already have enough.” ―Bill McKibben, author Deep Economy

“Perhaps the highest compliment one writer can give another is 'I wish I'd said that!' David Wann has woven together all the right stuff to make a compelling and appealing case for the abundance of enough and the poverty of more. He stands firmly with one foot in the intimate details of daily life and the other in the shocking details of the degradation of healthy ecosystems and communities. Both the appeal of a better personal life and the horror of what will be upon us if we don't act should get us all on the Simple Prosperity bandwagon.” ―Vicki Robin, coauthor YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE, cofounder CONVERSATION CAFES

“Dave Wann's recipes from his own experience in Simple Prosperity are a breath of fresh air, and just what we need for a saner future. They include ideas, sound research and down-to-earth advice we can all use. This book is also much more: a friendly, personal guidebook for living a more enjoyable, healthy, loving life.” ―Hazel Henderson, author, Ethical Markets: Growing The Green Economy

“If ever there was a right book at the right time, Simple Prosperity is it. This country needs this book.” ―Lester R. Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute, author of Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble.

About the Author

DAVID WANN is the author of many books, including the bestselling Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, which he co-authored. He lives in Golden, Colorado.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312361416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312361419
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Wann is an author, filmmaker, and speaker on the topic of sustainable lifestyles - the creation of a joyfully moderate way of life that requires half the resources to deliver twice the satisfaction. He's written nine books; his most recent, The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living, identifies 33 high-leverage actions - largely collective - that can help create an age of restoration and responsibility. Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, is a sequel to the best-selling book he coauthored, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, which is now in 9 languages.

He has also produced 20 videos and TV programs, including the award-winning TV documentary "Designing a Great Neighborhood," and "Building Livable Communities," for then-Vice President Gore. David is the father of two children, president of the Sustainable Futures Society, and a Fellow of the national Simplicity Forum. He co-designed the cohousing neighborhood where he lives, has taught at the college level, and worked more than a decade as a policy analyst for U.S. EPA.


The 12 New Normal Paradigm Principles

1. The challenges we face are not just technical - they are social, biological, political, and even spiritual challenges. For example, green technologies won't be sufficient if our current value system keeps pumping out too much stuff, and settling for sloppy services. Even green over-consumption is over-consumption, which results in more transactions and "throughput" than the planet's living systems can handle without collapse.

2. Technology is no longer the limiting factor of productivity - resources are. Deeper wells can't pump water that's no longer there; larger boats and nets can't harvest more fish when fish populations have been wiped out.

3. Major historical shifts occur when a majority of the population understands that is is easier to adopt a new way of life than prop up the broken one. Therefore, the "bad news" we've heard over the past three decades is not really negative, but rather useful evidence that systemic change is necessary.

4. In our search for a new way of life and the products that will help achieve it, we are exploring whole new ways of thinking and designing. We are choosing not just hybrid cars, but hybrid systems that provide food; mobility, wellness, shelter; energy and employment synergistically. The overall goal is not arbitrary, anything-goes growth - often burdened with dysfunction, illness, and waste- but growth/improvements that meet essential needs fully.

5. New systems of accounting will track productivity in terms of quality, not just quantity. For example, exemplary companies now track tons of cement or sheets of paper produced per unit of energy (not just per dollar invested). Similarly, to evaluate the overall productivity of farming, the new metrics will track the nutritional value of the food and the health of the farms it came from, not simply bushels of grain or pounds of beef.

6. Decisions will be made and priorities set using far wider criteria than price, profit, and prestige. For example, living capital - life itself - should unquestionably have a higher priority in decision-making than transitory material capital.

7. We can't change the realities of resource scarcity and population increase, so we need to change our way of life instead. For example, we are a social species that uses status to organize the group, but there are many other ways of awarding status besides material acquisition, such as trustworthiness, knowledge, kindness, and integrity. The new normal reminds us that a leaner way of life is healthier.

8. Designers can't assume that energy will be abundant, or that discretionary time will continue to be scarce. In the future, we will use more human time and energy and less fossil fuel energy. We will once again participate in activities such as walking rather than driving; operating window covers to maintain desired temperatures in homes and offices. "Totally automatic" may be a desirable goal for robots, but not humans.

9. A sustainable economy maximizes the productivity of resources in addition to people. Writes Paul Hawken, "When you maximize the productivity of people, you use fewer people, but we have more people than there are jobs. Basically we are using less and less of what we have more of, and with natural capital, using more and more of what we have less of." That kind of economy doesn't make sense. Why not move toward full employment of a part-time workforce, giving us enough income as well as more time for living? To fund public services and infrastructure, why not tax fossil fuels and pollution, not work?

10. Some products and resources - such as food, water and gasoline - need to be priced higher to ensure both full cost accounting and minimal waste. For example, gasoline should rightfully cost much more because its environmental and health effects are not currently accounted for.

11. Saving a civilization is not effortless and convenient; it takes focus, strategy, and engagement. Our generation's mission should be to create and maintain an economy based on fully satisfying finite needs rather than chasing insatiable, market-driven wants. Let's slow down and meet needs directly, delivering more value per lifetime.

12. Democracy may be our greatest social invention to date, but it can't work unless citizens are informed and have both political access and sufficient time to exercise their shared power.


Beginning when I was about four and continuing for several decades beyond that, a lumbering grizzly bear invaded my dreams whenever my life felt out of control -- at least a few times a year. The bear was a thousand pounds of snarling, razor-clawed mammal, blundering up the dark stairway toward my bedroom. I told my parents about the bear but they assured me he wasn't real. (Why then, I wondered, did he have so much power?)

Thankfully, somewhere in my late twenties, I began to get a grip. One very significant night, I leaped onto the stage of my own nightmare - a lucid dream they call it - and decided to try tickling the bear, of all things. Miraculously, it worked; the bear chuckled like a huge, shy, department store teddy bear! My unconscious mind had staged a coup, asserting my right and power to come out of the shadows and live fearlessly in the light -- never mind the horror of rejection slips or credit card interest rates that jump fivefold if you miss a payment by two and a half hours. The confused and defused bear plodded, mumbling, out of my life forever.

Tickling the bear became a life strategy (and I believe it can be a cultural strategy too, for taking back our power). It seemed like the bear's ghostly mission was to terrorize we humans who inhabit a harried, self-destructive Dream of too many choices, too many competitors, and too much to know. I wondered, even then, why didn't we just start out content and let that be more than enough? Why didn't we unplug from the fear, the shame, and the fantasy-based expectations, rather than chasing a Dream all our lives? Many remember how the Bomb hung over our lives in those days, but I suspect it really was the chasing that was making the country so nervous.

I look back at that night with a certain degree of pride. I had symbolically taken charge of my own life, exorcising a fear capable of immobilizing me in moments of insecurity. Since then, I've had the guts to speak up to corporate polluters; close-minded supervisors and would-be kings; spoiled scramblers for the money; control freaks and neighborhood bullies of my boyhood. By tickling the bear, I've played a role in defusing the nuclear bomb, flipping the switch on machines that steal our jobs and contaminate our food.Yes, the risks and threats of global climate change, genetic engineering, child abuse, deceit, corruption, and perverted power are staggering, but we are capable of finessing them. Ultimately, the bear becomes Gentle Ben when he's tickled because he finally understands that despite the dramatic, grizzled costume he finds himself in, he's really one of us.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Olson on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Republished Blog Post:

I recently finished up a book entitled Simple Prosperity that was written by David Wann, one of the co-authors of Affluenza (in fact, it was so interesting I blew through it in two sittings). In Affluenza, David and his co-authors diagnosed the debilitating disease of over-consumption that is effecting America and other parts of the world. Simple Prosperity picks up where Affluenza left off and shows us how we can make a change for the better and increase our quality of life.

In fact, as another reviewer put it, Simple Prosperity will take you through a lot of what researchers have learned about stress, happiness, community, etc. The one thing it won't do is show you how to make more money. It'll show you that the money you have may already enough.

In the book Wann relates a lot of personal stories that tie into his message of consuming less and being happy with what you have. There are a lot of interesting points in the book relating to happiness which is one of the main themes. Specifically Wann tells us, and backs it up with studies and other anecdotes, that the things that make us happy are the things we always knew made us happy. Those things being friends, family, a sense of community, healthy food to eat, civic work and purpose.

One piece of information that I found interesting was a study referenced by Wann in the book that mentioned that any incremental money we earn over $50,000 per year doesn't necessarily make us any more happy. In fact, it most likely lowers our happiness level since we need to spend more time working to make each additional dollar rather than spending that time with friends, family, doing civic work and doing the things we love, our hobbies.
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87 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Harold Roth on August 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've been gardening organically for 25 years, but only in the past ten or so have I done anything about trying to simplify my life so that I am not being such a resource hog. I've looked at all sorts of info about how to do this. I thought this book would be a good source. It isn't, though, unless you are a yuppie.

For instance, the author described how he decided to put his money where his mouth was in terms of sustainability by quitting his job at the EPA and going freelance to write full time about the subject. A very laudable endeavor, to my mind, and being self-employed, I certainly have an understanding of just how scary it is to risk all on a dream. But when I read that the author one year made very little money, and that "very little money" was $30,000, well, I just had to laugh out loud. Mr. Wann, in the US, $34,000 is the average income.

Then I read about how we can all conserve by cutting down on the size of our house. Another laudable idea. But did you know that many people would not consider a 1700 square foot house adequate? He described such a home he had visited (as one might a museum) as being built like a sailboat, with everything in its place, all squared away and tucked up. The implication was that it was a lot to ask a family to live in such a "tiny" house. He should take a trip to my city, where the vast majority of houses are actually smaller than 1700 square feet, and most of them are occupied by at least one family.

The author described how he presently makes do living in 1000 square feet. Yes. He lives alone. Well, I am here to tell you that I live in 550 square foot house, and that also houses my business, with its entire inventory, and my five wide-bodied cats.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Susan L. Keen on February 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've read most of David Wann's books about over-consumption, well-designed neighborhoods, organic gardening, and sustainable ways of living and designing, but this one is his best effort yet. He puts words and concepts together in a way that makes the book an easy read, even though it's packed with facts, examples, and actions to create a new lifestyle guided by a much greener "everyday ethic."

To me, the book's important message is that human needs remain the same across all cultures, throughout history. What changes is the way we try to meet those needs. Needs are finite and achievable--meeting essential needs satisfies us the way eating a healthy, great-tasting meal does. But most "wants" are infinite and insatiable--we eat too much and still aren't satisfied. As the psychologists in the book point out, our society is overfed and undernourished in many way.

Reading Simple Prosperity made me realize that we are trying to BUY essential, basic qualities (like appreciation, respect, health, self esteem, freedon, security and creativity) when in many cases we could satisfy these needs without spending any money at all.

Wann argues persuasively that we have the social, phychological and technical tools to build a more sustainable society, and that there is not higher goal we could aspire to. For me, each paragraph in the book is like another brick of that new, more compassionate culture.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Gorsevski on February 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
For people not familiar with the subject matter of Simple Prosperity, it is a fantastic wake-up call. For those, like me, who are familiar with Mr. Wann's earlier work, particularly Affluenza, Simple Prosperity serves to re-focus our efforts to step off the hyper-consumeristic bandwagon so many of us mindlessly have boarded.

History will show that David Wann was way ahead of the curve. Soon enough the planet will punish us for our waste and excess, however, as the book makes clear, having to live with less quantity does not mean we have to give up quality. In fact, at some point the opposite is true, and as the book makes clear, less is more when it comes to enjoying life. What is the use of making a six figure salary if you don't enjoy your life or have time to relax, enjoy your family or pursue a hobby?

The book is most effective when Wann cites statistics and case histories, less effective (at least for me) when personal examples are used. The book uses the right amount of humor and does not try to preach or scare people into changing their lifestyles. Instead the message is more upbeat.

Unless the reader is completely close minded, this book will stay with you and result in some lifestyle changes. Reading it, you want to nod your head and say, "that's right, I knew that but it never made so much sense until now." Eventually, either voluntarily or out of necessity, more and more people will scale back and re-claim their lives from the fast-paced, angry, consumeristic impulses we've been subjected to for the past few decades.
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