Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bill McKibben and "Deep Economy"

If you choose just one book for late summer/early fall, or indeed just one book to fit in yet this year, let me suggest one. Bill McKibben's latest book is entitled "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future" (2007, Times Books, Henry Holt & Co., New York). McKibben's nine previous books have ranged widely but have at least revolved around environmental themes. He is perhaps most widely-known for the 1989 book "The End of Nature". McKibben's been writing about climate change for nearly 20 years; in other words, since long before many people ever took it seriously, and at least before many people even knew what it was.

This book, however, goes to the heart of what should be done to create a more sane, ecologically sustainable and livable economy, and thus a more sane, ecologically-sustainable and livable world. Surprisingly, it is not as much focused on technological changes as one might expect. Instead, Mckibben focuses on the myth of growth, on community, as well as energy production, and food.

Indeed, McKibben predicts that the necessary economic changes may and will come from the bottom up, not from the top down. In fact, the most hopeful and optimistic parts of his tale are about places all over the planet where small-scale changes are already occurring, and are having amazing success. Read for example about the rising trend in farmers markets, small-scale electric power generation projects, local farming cooperatives, and similar initiatives. Read about Gorasin, a Bangladeshi village where villagers raise 21 food crops, chickens for meat and eggs, as well as fish on one acre. Fewer nutrient deficiencies, and an almost total rejection of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (they've already had their bad experiences with the use of both). Or read about a Guatemalan cooperative that makes human-powered farm machinery out of old bicycles, including a grain mill, a machine for manufacturing roofing tiles, and bicycle-driven irrigation pump.

McKibben explans how the search for More has become what has been driving us, at the same time as we are discovering that More seldom equals Better - in fact, it is often the other way around.

Like his other books, Deep Economy is fascinating and well-written. McKibben is a consummate journalist and essayist. I'll be surprised if you come away from this book without a more hopeful view of the future - but while he's leading you to see that possible future, he does not pull any punches, and he shows that there is no easy way ahead. He's done the research that makes this book totally convincing.

See more about this book at http://www.billmckibben.com/deep-economy.html

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