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More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next
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More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  114 reviews
From the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Second Machine Age, a compelling argument—masterfully researched and brilliantly articulated—that we have at last learned how to increase human prosperity while treading more lightly on our planet.

Throughout history, the only way for humanity to grow was by degrading the Earth: chopping down forests, fouling the air a
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Scribner (first published 2019)
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Paul Boosz Excellent question, everything depends on your metric. That's why you have to dig a little deeper to understand what's happening.

Researchers measure m…more
Excellent question, everything depends on your metric. That's why you have to dig a little deeper to understand what's happening.

Researchers measure material consumption with DMC (Domestic Material Consumption) that account for national extraction + imports - exports. US's DMC is stagnating not decreasing. But we now know that DMC is largely flawed because it doesn't account for the material involved in the production and transportation of the imported goods. So an iphone is accounted for 200g in the DMC when in fact you had to use much more minerals, fossil fuels, to produce it and transport it...

The material footprint is a much more accurate indicator. Looking at the material footprint the story is different there is no absolute decoupling. There's in fact a recoupling : The US'material footprint is growing faster than its GDP since the 90's !
See : https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/112...
Go further on the possibility of decoupling : https://www.researchgate.net/publicat...(less)

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Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Upon reading this, I must balance two reactions very carefully.

I agree with the basic premise that ON THE WHOLE, dire poverty across the world has reduced and a lot of this has to do with the free exchange of goods MINUS the looters who exploit the system OR external negatives such as unrestrained pollution. We DO have a lot of reasons to remain optimistic. Technology, awareness, the willingness of governments to combat looting, and general innovation HAS forestalled some of the very worst pred
Paul Boosz
Jan 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read more from less with interest and was surprised with some of the claims in the book.
The whole argument is based on this premise : "America is now generally using less of most resources year after year"
I checked and this is in fact, at best misleading. Researchers measure material consumption with DMC (Domestic Material Consumption) that account for national extraction + imports - exports. US's DMC is stagnating not decreasing. But we now know that DMC is largely flawed because it doesn't a
Max Nova
Did you know the world's paper consumption peaked in 2013 and total global paper use has been declining ever since? Or that since 1982, America has taken an area the size of Washington State out of cultivation while simultaneously increasing total crop tonnage by 35%?

Welcome to the power of "dematerialization." I first encountered this idea while reading Buckminster Fuller's 1969 "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth," although he called it "ephemeralization." MIT economist Andrew McAfee takes B
Andrej Karpathy
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
A fairly unconvincing, high level, pop-econ take on dematerialization in the economy. The first 7 chapters lay out the context: Malthusian condition, the Industrial Revolution, Earth Day, etc. Chapter 5,6,7 form the core of the book where we are treated to some pretty sketchy diagrams with everything improving up and to the right while our physical consumption of raw resources reverses. Very little is said about a number of obvious objections, eg the ongoing globalization and its effects. After ...more
Sanjay Varma
Dec 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was extremely irritating. The author pretends that the last hundred years didn't happen, in order to assert that capitalists should keep doing what they do, making stuff and innovating. Government will sign treaties and limit pollution. That way, everything will turn out fine.

Want to know a bit more? The author says that naysayers are always wrong because Malthus was wrong and also, in the 1970's, doomsday predications about running out of raw materials were also wrong. He concludes th
I've been doing a lot of reading on population and sustainability lately, and coming around to the position that Julian Simon might have been more right than I would ever have imagined possible 10 years ago. Maybe it is actually possible that technology and economic growth could, counter to all intuition, reduce ecological harm more than they increase it. How would you know without looking at the evidence? The problem is that the faction I have historically been most sympathetic to still thinks ...more
Siddhartha Banerjee
Books like this, Better Angels of our Nature, Abundance, etc. are an excellent tonic to help recalibrate outlooks on current affairs. You may not agree with the four horsemen theory (I do and I love the coopted imagery of doomsday put in the service of thwarting Armageddon), but you will probably take heart from the evidence for optimism presented in this work. I'm really glad I bumped this book up on my to read list, and I highly recommend others check this book out. ...more
Laurent Franckx
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
It is sometimes really difficult to give final marks to a book written by an academic that is targeting a general public. Should we evaluate the book for what we have personally learned from it or what someone outside our field can be expected to learn from it?
McAfee joins the group of authors such as Bjorn Lomborg, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley and Hans Rosling who point out that, while a lot may be wrong in the world, a lot of things are getting better and a lot of things are actually much better
Heather Bennett
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
More from Less is a interesting book that has some good advice. Although there a several reputable scientists that would disagree with this author on many claims of his, such as we are emitting less gas etc.
Vincent Sels
Sep 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
When I asked Maarten Bourdy, one of Belgium’s most influential public philosophers and proponent of ecomodernism, where he got his optimistic belief in technological innovation and decoupling from as the solution to the climate and other ecological crises, despite the countless research papers [1] and reports [2] clearly pointing in the opposite direction, he suggested me this book. Although I’d heard McAfee talk about it on at least one podcast and found it far from convincing, I thought I shou ...more
Apr 07, 2020 rated it did not like it
Jacek Bartczak
The synthesis of discussions about Earth's natural resources - whether we are fucked or not. The author admits the following decades may be somewhere between bad and catastrophic, but he also sees many chances. For instance:
- now we can produce more economy from one piece of metal than earlier,
- now instead of the camera, dictaphone, notebook, calendar and many other things we need just one smartphone.

SOMETIMES this book is like Factfullness but completely focused on natural resources.

I don't k
Andrew Schlaepfer
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to attend an event to see Andrew McAfee speak about his book, so of course I had to read it first! He presents an optimistic world view that I can subscribe to. His thesis is that capitalism, technological progress, responsive government, and public awareness (the four horsemen of the optimist) have brought us to a point of dematerialization (we're increasing our well-being while shrinking our environmental footprint) and will continue to lead us down tha ...more
Jan 11, 2020 added it
McAfee sees an interesting inversion taking place now. 'If the Enlightenment led to the Industrial Era, then the Second Machine Age has led to a Second Enlightenment - a more literal one. We are now lightening our total consumption and treading more lightly on our planet.'

The unbearable lightness of being.

'The most valuable of all capital is that invested in human beings.'
Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics
Maciej Filipkowski
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A book that needs to be read or listened to in 2020 by you. Good balanced perspective, better that Factfulness. A little weaker on story telling hence 4 stars.
Kwame Som-Pimpong
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
My daughter declared herself vegetarian after overhearing the book while I listened to it. She's now got me eating more of a plant-based diet. Funny enough, at the end of the book, that was one of the recommendations. ...more
Richard Thompson
I don't know. I'm not entirely sure that McAfee is right in the basic premise that in the US we are using less resources and therefore moving in the direction of burdening the planet less. Maybe. I do think that there are some hopeful signs in resource usage, and I think that it is important to maintain an optimistic attitude in looking for solutions, as promoted by this book and a few other recent books like "Factfulness" and "Better Angels of Our Nature," but I'm not ready to count on the free ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
This embarrassingly bad book was the worst book I read in 2019. If you are interested in these issues read one of Vaclav Smil's books (http://vaclavsmil.com/category/books/).

One wouldn't know it from reading the book but there is a large academic literature on dematerialisation (or making more from less) that the author ignores. His sloppy scholarship and conflation of the world and the US means you will be likely less informed after reading this book than before reading it.

I had to read this, b
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
He raises some valid points however I feel that he’s too decisive about certain things like genetically modified food and nuclear power. I also think that considering he’s talking about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions he only included two lines about veganism rather than talking about adoption of a plant-based life.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a curious book. Unrelentingly positive in its assessment of what technological progress and entrepreneurship have done to the planet, often naively so. While it is an unabashed apologist for technology-led industrial scale transformation of our planet- and rather one-sided- but it does lay out the core and fundamental arguments in layman-friendly language, so that thereafter the reader can make his/ her own judgement about the climate movement and what is to be done about it.

The book st
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found myself agreeing with most of Mcafee’s points. Can’t dispute evidence-based arguments about general progress in the world: much of our population has been alleviated from poverty, ingenious innovations have arisen from capitalism and its profit incentive that reduce collective harm from our manufacturing-industrial years. As an optimistic person, I see a lot of potential and future in Edtech, simple technology and tweaks that reduce unnecessary mortality in emerging economies, and agricul ...more
Gordon Larsen
Feb 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book club selection by James Devereaux. More from Less pulls together and summarizes lots of concepts that can be found elsewhere. McAfee's primary thesis is—as the title suggests—that we're using less of the earth's resources than we used to despite a larger population and a much higher standard of living. He backs up the claim with lots of clear data.

He starts by walking through all the failed projections of Malthus and others, the well-intentioned but absurd sacrifices
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The central thesis of this book is that four factors in modern times are leading humanity to live in better harmony with the planet, and that countries where these four factors come together, there is strong evidence of progress in the right direction. The four factors are capitalism, technological progress, responsive government and public awareness.
MIT professor of Economics, Andrew McAfee makes a compelling case for this with various research papers and solid data illustrating progressive de
Mohammad Al-ubaydli
Important and timely for environmentalists to keep doing their good work

At a time when I hear from everyone that everything is wrong, it’s important to learn what is right, so we can do more of it. And at a time when I hear so often that there are too many people for the planet, it is important to learn how population growth is on a trajectory to harm the planet less - if only because historically people who saw no alternative put their efforts into people dying. Industrialisation has been devas
Jen Juenke
Apr 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
WOW. I loved this book. It really laid out that all is NOT doom and gloom when it comes to the planet and global warming.
The author makes convincing arguments that the last 100 or so years, we have been consuming less and less stuff. The peak material stuff was around 1970s.
If you think about it...your smart phone now is your enclyclopedia, a camera, a video recorder, a phone, a gps. It enables so much more stuff and takes up less space.

Further, look at all the things you no longer own....CD's,
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoy books like this that are written from an optimist’s perspective. This book catalogues many innovations that have drastically improved humanity, efficiency, and prosperity—and, most importantly, provides the “why.” Last, I really enjoyed the full throated defense of capitalism as the driver behind humankind’s ability to do more with less. Socialism may be trendy but it is sub-optimal long-term. Capitalism is far from perfect and needs reforms and continuous improvement but it should not b ...more
Saketh Kasibatla
I love essay books like this. They’re quick, informative reads that help you rest your ideas against the evidence. I’m generally disposed to agree with the author’s arguments. He argues cogently that whole our current economic and social formula has issues, that it’s mostly in the right direction, and that while we should curb our excesses, revolution our fundamental reorganization would hurt more than it helps. Imho a very sober analysis of our time, acknowledging our issues without falling vic ...more
Jul 20, 2020 marked it as queued
Might read with plenty grains of salt.

Theodore Kinni
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
McAfee is a glass-half-full kinda guy. He thinks a combination of technology, capitalism, gov’t response, and public pressure can ensure that economic growth is endlessly sustainable and the world will continually become a better place for all. Hope he’s right!
Rishabh Srivastava
Sep 05, 2021 rated it liked it
The book claims that rich countries can now generate economic growth and improve quality of life while consuming fewer resources than we did earlier, and uses compelling data to back up that claim.

My main takeaways were:
1. There are 4 forces encouraging dematerialization in rich countries – technological progress, market forces (specifically, reducing costs by making from less), consumer demand for "greener" products, responsive regulations

2. Technology and markets are indifferent to externaliti
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“As I said in the previous chapter, all of the rich countries that meet my definition of capitalist have welfare systems that include support for the poor and unemployed, subsidized health care for at least some groups, child and elder care, and so on. Advanced capitalist countries have tremendous variations in their social safety nets—Norway’s, for example, is very different from America’s—but all such countries have one.” 0 likes
“A study published in 2017 by researchers Christian Schmidt, Tobias Krauth, and Stephan Wagner found that 88–95 percent of all plastic garbage that flowed into the world’s oceans from rivers came from just ten of them, of which eight were in Asia and two in Africa. The developed economies of North America and Europe were as a group contributing little to the problem of river-sourced plastic trash in our oceans.” 0 likes
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