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Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future Hardcover – March 6, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Challenging the prevailing wisdom that the goal of economies should be unlimited growth, McKibben (The End of Nature) argues that the world doesn't have enough natural resources to sustain endless economic expansion. For example, if the Chinese owned cars in the same numbers as Americans, there would be 1.1 billion more vehicles on the road—untenable in a world that is rapidly running out of oil and clean air. Drawing the phrase "deep economy" from the expression "deep ecology," a term environmentalists use to signify new ways of thinking about the environment, he suggests we need to explore new economic ideas. Rather then promoting accelerated cycles of economic expansion—a mindset that has brought the world to the brink of environmental disaster—we should concentrate on creating localized economies: community-scale power systems instead of huge centralized power plants; cohousing communities instead of sprawling suburbs. He gives examples of promising ventures of this type, such as a community-supported farm in Vermont and a community biosphere reserve, or large national park–like area, in Himalayan India, but some of the ideas—local currencies as supplements to national money, for example—seem overly optimistic. Nevertheless, McKibben's proposals for new, less growth-centered ways of thinking about economics are intriguing, and offer hope that change is possible. (Mar. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In offering straightforward solutions to the looming environmental crisis, Bill McKibben has marched directly into the middle of a heated debate. Critics' personal beliefs and politics shaped their reviews, which described Deep Economy as, alternately, a "masterfully crafted, deeply thoughtful and mind-expanding treatise" (Los Angeles Times) and a "book-length sermon on what is wrong with the way we live" (San Francisco Chronicle). Some reviewers found McKibben's solutions practical and the author refreshingly unpretentious, while others considered his vision utopian and his attitude self-righteous. However, they did agree that McKibben writes compellingly—with warmth, sincerity, and a sharp sense of humor. His resolute hope for the future will resound with readers no matter where their loyalties lie. But will it change any minds?

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1St Edition edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805076263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805076264
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jesse Kornbluth on March 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Deep Economy" may be the most disturbing and challenging book published this year.

Disturbing? It's like the doctor telling you that you have cancer. And not just you --- you and everyone you know.

The good news: There is a cure. And with the energetic support of business and government, you and everyone you know can be saved.

The bad news: Our economic system is based on a crude, outdated model: More = better. Blinded by the mantra of growth, our leaders will try to make that model last as long as possible --- even if they destroy the planet in the process.

The challenging action item: You want to help save the world? Think local. Think community.

Your reaction is mine: No way. Shopping at a farmer's market: nice, but unimportant. Better bus service: handy, but inconsequential. Solar panels and wind turbines: of anecdotal importance. At best, the "economics of neighborliness" will divert us as the temperature and water rise.

On the other hand, this is Bill McKibben talking. And only a fool doesn't pay attention to this guy. In 1989, he published "The End of Nature," the first book to call attention to global warming. He's written about population control and television and the challenge of remaining human as the world becomes digitized. (And he's not just a brainiac. In "Long Distance," the 37-year-old McKibben put himself through Olympic-intensity training to see how good a cross-country skier he could become.)

McKibben has the ability, rare among writers, of identifying a problem, reporting on it, thinking it through and proposing solutions --- all in 225 pages. Here the problem he sees is unchecked growth. The usual suspects say we're in no danger of draining the planet's resources.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a promising but ultimately disappointing book.

Among its strengths: it is very well-written. Compared to books with similar themes by Herman Daly (e.g., "For the Common Good", written with John Cobb), Michael Shuman ("Growing Local"), and Gar Alperovitz ("Making a Place for Community", with Imbroscio and Williamson), this McKibben book is written in an accessible, engaging style, with plenty of real-world stories of interesting individuals.

Another strength: This book is much fairer than the non-fiction essays by Wendell Berry on similar economic issues. McKibben at places does make a real attempt to acknowledge the arguments of economists about the benefits of economic growth and about the potential for economic adjustments to deal with some of the problems he identifies. This is particularly true in chapter 1, which critiques the mainstream view of economic growth.

A third strength: chapter 3 contains some powerful arguments for putting a greater value on local communities in considering economic policy issues.

However, ultimately I think McKibben shies away from really confronting the difficult issues he raises in a manner that would be convincing to a broad audience. As a result, I think the book is likely to be more of a comfort and support to readers who already agree with the views he expresses, rather than a powerful challenge to readers who disagree.

For example, one of McKibben's key arguments against economic growth is that economic growth will overuse energy, increase global warming, and damage various natural economic systems.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of the author since I read his book on The Age of Missing Information, and I then lost touch with his work. I was reminded of him by Paul Hawken, whose book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming I will review this afternoon.

DEEP ECONOMY is a very fine personal effort with a very straight-forward prescription for localizing food production, energy production, radio, and currency. The author is a gigantic intellect, and writes clearly.

The core point in the first part of the book is an emphasis on a need to restore humanity to the process, to reduce industrial era efficiencies in order to enable more intangible values such as community. The opening chapter is a great review of the literature the author is familiar, but I take off one star because the other books I list below are not mentioned, hence this great book is incomplete in that sense.

The author puts forward three areas where life as we know it is going downhill:

1) Our political systems continue to emphasize industrialization and consolidation that is not affordable by our current rates of depleting energy and water;

2) There is not enough energy for China, let alone Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards like Turkey and South Africa, to follow in our steps.

3) All this "more" is not making us happier. Indeed the author documents, as others have, that the US was happiest in 1946, and it's been downhill from there.
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