Eliz's Reviews > Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

Deep Economy by Bill McKibben
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Nov 07, 11

bookshelves: 2011, graduate-school
Read in November, 2011

Bill McKibben illuminates familiar truths about the unsustainability of our current system of endless growth and endless consumption with terrifyingly specific examples that span the globe. He advocates for local economies on human scale, small enough to be answerable and mobile to the individuals who compose them. This book reminded me of why I choose to not eat meat and why it is always important to buy local and eat local. McKibben's encouragement to wake up from the hypnotic lull of economic dogma and choose a new system that works for people and works for the planet we share is powerful.

"By the 1990s, observes the journalist James Howard Kunstler, "the dirty secret of the American economy was that it was no longer about anything except the creation of suburban sprawl and the furnishing, accessorizing, and financing of it." Does that sound like an exaggeration? The statistics are even more stark: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average density of cities, suburbs, and towns in 1920 was about 10 persons per acre; by 1990 it had dropped to 4 persons per acre, even as the U.S. population doubled."

As a side note, when I worked for the environmental center on Rice's campus, I once spent an afternoon driving James Howard Kunstler around Houston before he gave an evening lecture. He was prickly, like you might expect of someone who spends a great deal of his time thinking about how screwed up our entire system is. His book, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century is on my to-read shelf now.

"I'm not suggesting an abrupt break with the present, but a patient rebalancing of the scales. The project will not be fast, cheap, or easy. Fast, cheap, and easy is what we have at the moment. They are the cardinal virtues upon which our economy rests... The word we use to sum up these virtues is "efficiency" and on its altar we have sacrificed a good deal: our small farms were inefficient compares with factory farms; our local retailers were inefficient compared with Wal-Mart; having free time is inefficient compared with working more hours. Relationships were inefficient compared with things. And, in a certain, limited sense, each of these ideas is correct. If you leave certain factors (pollution, say, and unhappiness) out of account, we've built a society more efficient than any the world has ever seen."
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