Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Deep Economy

Deep Economy by Bill McKibben

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the world economy is headed for trouble. No, I’m not talking about the current downturn in the American economy, or even a depression, but something far worse. I’m talking about the kind of economic trouble that leads to war and famine. The simple fact is, the world is a closed system, within it are a limited number of resources with a limited rate of renewability. We are consuming things at a greater rate than they can renew. This has had some good effects, such as technological innovation, but it has also led to such horrors as the growth of illegal slavery. Worst of all, the situation seems hopeless. The West is locked into its pattern of mass consumption, and is dependent for its very survival on a system of agriculture that uses unprecedented amounts of water and petrol. To make matters worse, the East is rapidly catching up, and who can blame them? For people at the level of poverty experienced in that part of the world, the wealth that industrialization creates brings a marked improvement in quality of life. Frankly, the situation scares me, and it is for this reason, that I am deeply grateful for Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

The book starts out with the prognoses described above. McKibben talks about the overconsumption of resources and the deterioration of our environment. He then goes on to discuss how the continued pursuit of more economic growth has failed to bring us more happiness. After stating the problem, he goes on to present a multitude of solutions, all centered around the idea of smaller, localized economies that are not growth based, but instead sustainable. McKibben makes a powerful case for such an economy, and what is more he shows how it could work by highlighting places in the world where it has already started to come into being.
His suggestions aren’t without their problems (the proposal of localized currency is downright stupid), and it’s hard to see most modern Americans changing their lives in the ways he suggests. Still, his plan is for the most part realistic, it doesn’t ask that we all become radical liberals living in some socialist utopia, it simply asks that we restructure our economy in a way that will benefit both humans and the world around us. This book provides a concrete plan, and a definite hope. Oh, and it's also extremely well written and is a pleasure to read. I heartily recommend it this book to anyone concerned about the condition of our world.