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.
FROM "THE NEW NORMAL:"
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.
FROM "SIMPLE PROSPERITY:"
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.