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Ch. 1 - After Growth 
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Post Re: More is not always Better
One of the mistakes we tend to make in considering these ideas is to fail to identify how changes occur in societies.

Transforming the economy sounds like a huge task because we consider it from a top-down perspective. We think we have to change the big institutions, the dominant corporate perspective, and so on. And, of course, when the rich and powerful have great wealth invested, as they do, in maintaining the status quo, there's little likelihood they are going to be interested in changing things.

However, transformations also occur from the bottom up. They may take longer, partly because of the resistance from the upper echelons, but they also may be more sustainable. Governments are rarely agents of change. They may become such, but usually only when the people have demanded it.

McKibben seems to recognize the tremendous potential for change embodied in local action. People can't claim ownership of their lives waiting for others to hand it to them. The old mandate to think globally and act locally is especially appropriate here.

One of the most profound insights of the last century is that we are not apart from nature but are very much a part of it. However, we can't escape the truth that our survival depends, as does the survival of all animal species, to exploiting natural resources to some extent. What we need to learn is how to make that exploitation friendlier and less destructive of the resources we harvest.

Finally, I think we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion there was some idyllic time in the past when everything was in balance and all was golden. It's a fiction that gets in the way of honest answers. Whatever new models we evolve to resolve the issues that confront us--assuming we are able to resolve them--may well borrow from the past, but it's very unlikely they will bear any resemblance to it.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:02 pm
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Post Re: More is not always Better
garicker: One of the mistakes we tend to make in considering these ideas is to fail to identify how changes occur in societies.
...
However, transformations also occur from the bottom up.


That's definitely true, but in keeping with the idea of taking a realistic look at how changes occur in society, I think it's also worthwhile to note that such changes are rarely the result of a spontaneous, widespread adoption of idealism. Historically, social change has more often been associated with the introduction of new technologies (eg. agricultural technique), changes in physical environment (eg. deforestation or increased aridity), and fluctuations in population and diversity (eg. baby booms or mass immigration).




Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:18 pm
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Post Re: More is not always Better
Garicker: However, transformations also occur from the bottom up. They may take longer, partly because of the resistance from the upper echelons, but they also may be more sustainable.

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thomas Friedman shows how globalization can be used against itself. He points to the internet as one of the key tools for globalization. But, as the sustainable farmer (I forget his name) demonstrated in The Omnivore's Dilemma, the internet is also a tool for local agricultural communities to share their knowledge. CSAs and food co-ops also use the internet to exchange knowledge, raise awareness and advertise. Friedman also mentioned how companies were pressured by the U.S. masses when the revelations of sweatshops for U.S. products became so prevalent. One company had totally redeveloped their foreign textiles industry because one bad report/story/blog on the internet affected the buying habits of their target audience (teenagers). (I'm sorry I don't have more particulars, I lent this book out.) Or consider the global efforts in the Live 8, Live Aid, and now Live Earth awareness campaigns. I think these ground-up, "power to the people," transformation efforts could incorporate many of the tools globalization utilizes. As garicker reminds us, we need to "think globally and act locally."




Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:51 pm
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Post Re: More is not always Better
George: McKibben seems to recognize the tremendous potential for change embodied in local action. People can't claim ownership of their lives waiting for others to hand it to them. The old mandate to think globally and act locally is especially appropriate here.

McKibben's argument is intimately tied to everyday people becoming intimately involved in their everyday lives: consider everything you consume, purchase, utilize, build with and throw away...careful, thoughtful, intentional attention to the stuff we make contact with and the people who give it to us and from whom we take. I think he is charting a radical transformation of not simply economic systems, but personal identity and communal organization...I think this is what he means by Deep Economy. "Claiming ownership of our lives", in terms of Deep Economy requires understanding the true costs of choices we make.

I think McKibben is clear that in some cases, personal lifestyle changes will not be enough: the federal government and the full force of national policy will be essential...like his recent effort with Step It Up National Day of Climate Action--April 14th, 2007, where the rally involved mobilizing our Representatives to use the force of law to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

George: we can't escape the truth that our survival depends, as does the survival of all animal species, to exploiting natural resources to some extent. What we need to learn is how to make that exploitation friendlier and less destructive of the resources we harvest.

Key to this is keeping our food close to home and building our homes in ways that enhance our intimacy with nature. There is a great deal in our consumption practices that do not reflect survival, but instead result from very bad habits linked to dangerous social structures and destructive belief systems. Nature involves an exchange of lives: we need to revaluate what it is we mean by death and reconsider how we pursue or avoid it. I think the closer and more intimate we become with the food we eat, the clearer we get about the seasons and rhythms of life and the more intelligently we allign ourselves and attune our appetites.




Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:34 pm
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Post Re: More is not always Better
I see this thread is concentrating on whether McKibben's proposal for a change is feasible and if so how its realization would take place. I must confess that as I read on - I am presently reading chapter 4 - I am questioning more and more whether McKibben's proposal really suits my taste ::97 . But that's something I'd like to discuss in the thread of the corresponding chapters.

Apart from that, I'd like to comment DH's remark on some lines of mine:

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I don't think McKibben endorses such a hardline regarding the selfish propensities of human nature. I think he is arguing that our disregard for the welfare of the planet and others is not because we are inherently selfish, but because of our ignorance of alternative ways to live.


I have been considering this and I see some truth in your objection. It is very likely that I have interpreted McKibben's words very much in the light of my own pessimistic way of seeing human nature ::74 . However, I still see a difference between two main types of discourse: one which appeals to a desirable set of virtues that humans should cultivate, such as generosity, brother/sisterhood etc. and another one in which the appeal - though aiming at virtuous goals - is based on self-interest concerns.
When I wrote those lines I had hardly finished the first chapter. Having read the first three I would still say that McKibben's discourse



Thu Apr 26, 2007 2:34 pm
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Post Re: More is not always Better
I noted that social transformations sometimes occur from the bottom up.

Mad: That's definitely true, but in keeping with the idea of taking a realistic look at how changes occur in society, I think it's also worthwhile to note that such changes are rarely the result of a spontaneous, widespread adoption of idealism. Historically, social change has more often been associated with the introduction of new technologies (eg. agricultural technique), changes in physical environment (eg. deforestation or increased aridity), and fluctuations in population and diversity (eg. baby booms or mass immigration).

Oh, I quite agree. I don't think society ever changes through "a spontaneous, widespread adoption of idealism." And there's no question technological innovation, fluctuations in population and all the rest contribute to and sometimes cause such changes.

It's a messy business anyway, the idea of transforming societies. It never happens smoothly. It usually springs from a number of factors, sometimes competing with one another. It often produces unanticipated results and almost always has unintended consequences.

One of the things I find disappointing in McKibben's book is the lack of much in the way of fresh insight. His first chapter announces the idea that "more is not always better" as if it were some sort of revelation. Yet I know many people -- and I can honestly count myself among them -- who have never equated the two.

In another thread, I quoted a few lines from William Wordsworth who warned 200 years ago that "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers." If McKibben thinks this is any kind of new idea, I can only suggest he has had very limited experience.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:08 pm
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