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Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future [Paperback]

Bill McKibben
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 4 2008
"Masterfully crafted, deeply thoughtful and mind-expanding."--Los Angeles Times
In this powerful and provocative manifesto, Bill McKibben offers the biggest challenge in a generation to the prevailing view of our economy. Deep Economy makes the compelling case for moving beyond "growth" as the paramount economic ideal and pursuing prosperity in a more local direction, with regions producing more of their own food, generating more of their own energy, and even creating more of their own culture and entertainment. Our purchases need not be at odds with the things we truly value, McKibben argues, and the more we nurture the essential humanity of our economy, the more we will recapture our own.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Challenging the prevailing wisdom that the goal of economies should be unlimited growth, McKibben (The End of Nature) argues that the world doesn't have enough natural resources to sustain endless economic expansion. For example, if the Chinese owned cars in the same numbers as Americans, there would be 1.1 billion more vehicles on the road—untenable in a world that is rapidly running out of oil and clean air. Drawing the phrase "deep economy" from the expression "deep ecology," a term environmentalists use to signify new ways of thinking about the environment, he suggests we need to explore new economic ideas. Rather then promoting accelerated cycles of economic expansion—a mindset that has brought the world to the brink of environmental disaster—we should concentrate on creating localized economies: community-scale power systems instead of huge centralized power plants; cohousing communities instead of sprawling suburbs. He gives examples of promising ventures of this type, such as a community-supported farm in Vermont and a community biosphere reserve, or large national park–like area, in Himalayan India, but some of the ideas—local currencies as supplements to national money, for example—seem overly optimistic. Nevertheless, McKibben's proposals for new, less growth-centered ways of thinking about economics are intriguing, and offer hope that change is possible. (Mar. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Beginning with his prescient treatise on global warming, The End of Nature (1990), McKibben has been investigating and elucidating some of the most confounding aspects of our lives. He now brings his signature clarity of thought and handsomely crafted prose to a pivotal, complicated subject, the negative consequences of our growth-oriented economy. McKibben incisively interprets a staggering array of studies that document the symbiotic relationship between fossil fuels and five decades of dizzying economic growth, and the many ways the pursuit of ever-higher corporate profits has led to environmental havoc and neglect of people's most basic needs. At once reportorial, philosophic, and anecdotal, McKibben, intoning the mantra "more is not better," takes measure of diminishing returns. With eroding security, a dysfunctional health system, floundering public schools, higher rates of depression, "wild inequity" in the distribution of wealth, and damage to the biosphere, McKibben believes a new paradigm is needed, that of a "deep economy" born of sustainable and sustaining communities anchored in local resources. Using the farmer's market as a template, he explains the logistics of workable alternatives to the corporate imperative based on ecological capacities and the "economics of neighborliness." With the threat of energy crises and global warming, McKibben's vision of nurturing communities rooted in traditional values and driven by "green" technologies, however utopian, may provide ideas for constructive change. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-setting your mind July 4 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Since the end of WWII, North Americans have estabkished a new outlook on the individual and social relations. Where once we were part of small town rural communities or even close-knit urban neighbourhoods, now we've moved a major part of our population into the suburbs. Single houses, fenced or hedged keep us insulated from each other and the world. McKibben calls it "hyperindividuality" with each of us following the myth of More and Better. We demand More and Better appliances in our kitchen, More and Better vehicles in the garage with More and Better roads to drive them on. An economy based on this philosophy has touted Growth as a beacon to set the direction of our thinking. The resulting high consumption lifestyle has masked the true costs of how we live.

In this comprehensive and long overdue study, McKibben describes the way our current mindset is driving our lives. As an expressive reformer, he also provides a set of almost painless cures to restore without abandoning what we've become accustomed to. We can rebuild "community" without serious disruption. The "almost painless" simply means a small change in outlook and a willingness to undertake the work to achieve sustainable lives and communities. Finding each other and building more more communicative relationships with each other is a major first step. From those initial contacts healthier and more responsible lifestyles can result. The thin edge of the wedge in achieving this is simply for each of us to ask ourselves "How much Growth do we need?"

Personal interaction is best enhanced, according to McKibben, by the shift to local food and other products. With vegetables travelling thousands of kilometres to reach your dining table, paying increased attention to what is available locally has many advantages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Optimistic, factual and interesting April 11 2012
Few writers tend to capture my attention for long but McKibben had me hook, ligne, and sinker, as they say. He kept me wanting to read more. Every chapter delving further and further into an interesting yet real world that exists. Albeit most exists in minute quantities. This book summarized and engrained my own long lived thoughts and fears of our society, but it also gave me factual information. It allows me to once again be hopeful for a better world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Disturbing Nov. 14 2009
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
For most of human history, "more" and "better" have been pretty much the same when it comes to the things we want. Even today, a very large number of people live in poverty, and their main priority is more -- more food, more clothing, more medical care, more things. For them, "more" would still be "better."

But, for many of us, we have long ago passed the point where "more" is the same as "better." Every study that has looked at the correlation between wealth and happiness finds the same thing. Up to a certain point, more money make people happier. After a certain point, however, more money stops making us happier. Many of us are long past that point. McKibben starts with this observation, but then he moves further.

According to McKibben, our wealthy modern lifestyle is actually starting to make us less happy. We are social creatures, and living alone in massive houses, traveling in separate cars and the other things money tends to buy these days tend to isolate us from other people. This makes us less happy, in the end, not more.

And, finally, our lifestyle is less and less sustainable. Our food supply, for example, is highly dependent on cheap oil. While this has worked for a while, it cannot work forever. The demand for oil -- and other limited resources -- will grow spectacularly as some of those in poverty start to adopt some of our way of life. And that is so, even if population stops growing.

I found this book deeply disturbing, but I think McKibben is right about the problems he identifies. McKibben, however, is not so pessimistic. He thinks there are solutions that will allow us to live even happier lives by consuming less, not more. I sincerely hope that he is right, and that more people at least listen to what he has to say.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A positive and enlightening book Nov. 17 2009
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is a book that combines a lot of information into one idea. In his discussion of what constitutes a deep economy, a durable and wealthy economy, McKibben explores issues of food, energy, entertainment, public transportation, local businesses, subsidies, radio, television, and a host of other economic activities that make up our lives.

But the book is not a dry discussion of just these economic activities. It's also a beautifully written appeal to community and to personal happiness through getting back to that community. Part of the book is dedicated to the idea of "happiness" and just why happiness has fallen in the United States while it has grown in other places that have less money. Money doesn't buy happiness, is a cliche that most of us has probably heard, but perhaps still don't entirely believe. And it is true: money does buy happiness...but, as McKibben points out, only up to a certain point. After all the basic needs are met through that money, that money actually detracts from happiness or at least doesn't increase our level of happiness any more.

McKibben details our fall into a hyper-individual society that eschews any idea of social connections or "sharing" things with others and defines its individuality through what it consumes, own, buys. This is a trend that has been fostered by corporations and even our own government in order to keep the economy growing steadily as we spend more and more of our money, work longer hours to afford things, but never get any happier.

So what exactly does make us happier? Turns out it's not "things" but people. Connections with the community, time with our friends and family (even if that means working less and having less money), and time with ourselves.
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