For The Greater Goods (sm)

A New Path Forward :: Plenitude

A friend brought over a book the other day – she’d heard about it on NPR. The book is titled Plenitude (Juliet B. Schor) and the basic premise is that our current economic models aren’t working. In fact, the economic and environmental policies in place are worse than not working, they’re steering us for disaster. But unlike so many other authors, Ms. Schor then lays out, step by step, a remarkable path forward.

The author outlines how we can transform our lives, our communities and our planet and actually like it. What amazes me about the book is that Schor doesn’t stick with the gloom-and-doom long, though she certainly will point out data, facts and figures that support her premise. Rather, she continually frames forward and talks about what we can do, how we each are empowered to make change that is not only good for us but is something we ultimately enjoy.

Her premise is that we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect different results – but that we can do new and different things and actually create a better world and have fun getting there.

Here’s what sealed the deal for me – and this is just from the introduction:

…there’s a growing body of research that attests to human adaptability. Newer thinking in behavioral economics, cultural evolution, and social networking…yields a view of humans as far more malleable….As economic actors, we can change, too. This has profound implications for our ability to shift from one way of living to another, and to be better off in the process. It’s an important part of why we can both reduce ecological impact and improve well-being. As we transform our lifestyles, we transform ourselves. Patterns of consuming, earning and interacting that may seem unrealistic or even negative before starting down this road become feasible and appealing.” (Schor, Juliet B., Plenitude, The Penguin Press, New York, 2010, p. 11)

Everyone I know has scaled back in the past few years, re-examining their personal economic models. In part this was forced by so many people losing jobs, homes and investments (or savings). But on the heels of that was a true re-assessment of priorities. Even people I know who were less impacted by this economic crisis than most were looking at their lives and deciding that less was more.

Those actions were driven by necessity – the necessity to survive amidst the upheaval. Schor’s book takes it a step further and shows us how continuing down this new path can lead to a much more rewarding and richer life experience. Plenitude is for those who’ve decided to go down this path and are looking for a few guideposts along the way.

Of course, my viewpoint is that organic farming and sustainable environmental practices are absolutely a part of this new economic model. We can’t fix our economic model until it incorporates cost accounting for the economic fall out from traditional practices. What’s the ultimate cost of the oil spill in the Gulf? It’s not just on the ledgers of BP Oil that this cost will be paid, but that’s likely the only place it’s visible. Schor’s approach is to look at many sides of this multi-sided puzzle and provide a sane set of recommendations as to how we move forward.

I won’t hold it against her that she mentions organic farming but once in the book (p. 22) – she is providing a large-scale topo map for our new adventure, organic being one of the many facets that will bring us back to a sustainable and enjoyable approach to life on this breaktakingly amazing planet of ours.

If you haven’t read this book, grab it as soon as it hits your local library, borrow it from a friend (as I have done) or download it on your favorite e-reader. Buy the hard copy if you must (I am tempted), this one’s a keeper.

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