Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deep Economy-- Bill McKibben-- Review

Deep Economy The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. This book says a tremendous amount about the benefits of making economies smaller in scale. more focused on producing better quality products, and more sustainable. It is a direct challenge to the idea of unlimited growth and development as a model for human needs and happiness.

This book is much more than a book on environmentalism. It posits we have a choice between having more and having better. There simply are no longer the resources for unlimited growth and we need to start figuring out how to make things better, both in terms of quality of life and in terms of producing goods.

One of the central ideas in this book is that at one time increases in production made us happy, but now this is no longer true. Americans have gone from being #1 in quality of life to #13 in quality of life among nations. Hyperindividualism and excess focus on consumption have destroyed many American communities.

Because we are so focused on goods, we let big box stores like Walmart move into our communities and replace the local barbers, markets, and services. For every job that a Walmart creates we lose the equivalent of one and a half jobs. I am glad that I still live in a community where I can go to the local produce store, visit the bike shop, and go to the corner deli.

Bill McKibben posits that it is best for us to consume locally. He talks about how small farmers produce better quality produce and more produce per acre. He focuses on his personal experience of buying all of his food locally as well as the benefits of organically grown food. As part of this he attacks agri-business for feeding Americans huge amounts of corn syrup and wrecking many peoples health.

He also describes how to consume energy in a more local manner. Energy efficiency is the big winner is his mind, fluorescent light bulbs, insulation, double paned windows, and more efficient appliances are all part of his life. He tells you that one of the best ways you can support energy independence is to encourage your local politician to put in bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and improved public transportation. This will make it easier for the average consumer in the United States to have one car instead of two.

This book is a challenge to the notion that globalism in its current form is a good thing. He claims China will get tired of producing the goods for the United States eventually. What China is doing is unsustainable. Also, it cannot be a model for the rest of the world, because China is already taking away manufacturing jobs from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico, and India.

Also as the world changes many countries are not willing to go along with the demands of globalization. Globalization is not happening the way the United States envisioned it. We are steadily running into problems with global warming, peak oil, and environmental challenges. Many countries do not want to follow the standard industrialization model where big agribusiness comes in, then the displaced farmers go to work in factories in the cities.

There is a tremendous amount of information in this book. Almost every page talks about an importaint economic or environmental issue. Because the book is focused on what you can do locally, it gives you ideas on how to eat better, get more involved in local politics, be more energy efficient, and have an impact with your decisions on personal consumption.

There are quite a few things which I found odd in this book. There is a decent amount on local public radio stations and local community involvement which I did not get completely. I found in places that the ideas were not complete, and sometimes a bit incoherent.

Some of the examples like urban agriculture in Cuba and the Brazilian public transportation system in Curitibia are a little bit too far off the political left spectrum for me.

If you are interested in environmental lifestyle and philosophy this is a very interesting book. It is also a very personal book. It is not how to solve global warming or end the oil crisis. It is more about how to make a personal impact by being green.

This is a link to a talk by Bill McKibben. Part of the talk was available on Youtube, but the not whole thing. I decided it would be better to include a link to the talk rather than 7 minutes from Youtube.

No comments: