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Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future Paperback – March 4, 2008
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 compellinglywith 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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looks very prophetic these days.
The writing was a bit all over the place and heavily laden with quotes making the book hard to follow at times.
Almost 50 years ago, the General Motors' exhibit at the World Fair was based on the idea, "Technology can point the way to a future of limitless promise." If McKibben or anyone else wants to understand the future, they need only look at today's GM, or Ford. The world is heading for a similar wreck; the survivors will be those who get out of the way.
This book is an example of the problem it laments; it is a dazzling example of the benign greed that is producing disaster, it offers cheery solutions well suited for miniscule groups of the conscientious, but it's not an answer. It merely uses more paper to explain the danger of using too much paper and other materials.
Let's be realistic: GM's vision of the future produced gray smog, stop-and-go rush hour traffic, road rage, OPEC prices, the rust-belt, inner-city blight, White flight, auto thefts and car bombings, plus global warming, used car sales people and SUVs. It's all a product of free decisions in a free marketplace. Now, GM is collapsing but Toyota thrives with its little cars and hybrids. It's how we got today's mess. What's the solution? More free decisions in a free marketplace?
McKibben is perfect when he points out small hunter/gatherer cooperative groups were normal for 99 percent of our history; but, he fails to come to grips with the monetization of relations among people during the past 5,000 years, and especially the last 300 years. Everything is now impartially subject to decisions based on free market pricing, which means the lack of hunter/gatherer cooperation is replaced by individualized competition.
Our economy is a wolf-pack that has turned on itself.
He cites the creation of the Industrial Age as beginning with Thomas Newcomen's invention of a practical steam engine in 1712; but he ignores the agonizing social upheaval people endured in fleeing old local sustainable farms and moving into cities. Any major change in our future will likely involve a similar human and material price. Someone needs to explain the "cost" of change and how it can come about.
One solution I'm involved with on a daily basis is Amazon.com -- which by making it easy to "recycle" used and donated library books has spared whole forests. Until such recycling occurs for much more than books, we must be content with dire forecasts about the oncoming wreck of the economy.
For most societies, the solution has always been collapse before radical change. McKibben offers little hope that America is different.
Doable? Other reviewers are optimistic. But, I look at the sorrow of ruins and fear people are too attached to past and present mistakes to see or accept alternatives. Perhaps McKibben is right; he is certainly an antidote to my pessimism. His analysis is interesting -- if doable; and if doabvle, it is vital.
This is a rough guide to a better future.
McKibben's premise is that our current economy is based upon year after year growth and expansion and our environment and well-being can't take it too much longer. He argues that our unofficial national motto of "more is better" is killing us as we tear through our global resources and destroy our bodies. Technology, vocational efficiency and economic growth are turning us into the hyper-individualized individual that is easily manipulated and controlled by big business corporations. We are obsessed with consumerism and excess but studies are showing us that "more stuff" does not actually make us any happier thus it is pointless. Meanwhile we are destroying the Earth through the burning of fossil fuel and the little gains we are slowly making will be more then wiped out by the growth of China and India's economies which are trying to become like the USA. His solution is logical as he argues we must become more communal in every facet of our life. Our economies, our energy usage/distribution and our food system will all benefit the Earth as a whole if we can address these problems at the community level.
This is all pretty heady stuff that most of think about at some levels, but might not be ready to accept as a way of life like McKibben suggests. Nonetheless this is a great intro book while others out there go into these subjects with more detail.
Bottom Line: Because of its short length and uncomplicated prose, this is a great book to give to that special someone that hasn't read any social issue books yet but might benefit from it.