Jul 29, 2010


the New Economics of True Wealth
by Juliet B. Schor

I feel like I can't really give this book credit. I admit I didn't really understand everything presented in the first half of it; I don't usually read books about economics. So I'm just going to plunge in and give you my general impressions and tell you about what stood out for me. If you're really interested in it, you should seek out some other reviews that reflect a better understanding; this is just touching the surface.

I picked this book up at my husband's urging. It was hard to get into at first; my mind would tend to wander after just a few pages. But I'm glad I stuck it out. Plenitude first discusses how current economic practices and environmental disaster are intricately tied together. It really swung me around emotionally, as I kept feeling alternately horrified at projections for the future and utterly hopeless that anything will change in time to make a difference and save our planet. But then Schor talks about things people can do, and already are doing and I started to feel encouraged and even excited for the future. Her main point seems to be that we must as a whole society embrace a renewable lifestyle, that economic growth must dissipate into something small, local and sustainable. Not only will this help the environment in innumerable ways, but also raise people's feelings of wellbeing and purpose. She points out that countless studies have shown that after reaching a certain level of stability (ie out of poverty) more work (money) does not increase your happiness, just stress. Instead, people find satisfaction from investing time into worthwhile activities that don't produce monetary income but have other benefits: friendships, sharing information and knowledge, growing your own food, handcrafting items that can be used, traded or sold, etc. It's all about putting more back into your local community and focusing on reusing what we already have instead of further pillaging nature. There are so many things in here that had me going: wow! Fab labs. Houses built of alternative, recycled materials. "Slow" movements and resource sharing spreading across communities. People reclaiming dead lots and turning them into something useful or green for everyone to benefit from. It all sounds like small inconsequential things, perhaps (does turning my kitchen waste into garden compost really make an impact on the big picture?) but if you look at it all together, with people everywhere doing these things, the effects could be amazing, and just what we need.

You can read a lot more about the ideas in Plenitude at the author's own site. There's far more to it than what I've shared here; I just touched on the things that inspired me personally.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 258 pages, 2010

More opinions at:
Illahee Notes
Off Grid: Free Yourself


Gavin said...

Thanks, Jeane, this one sounds good. I hope my library has it, I could use some inspiration.

Zibilee said...

This does sound really interesting! I think that if more people embraced some of these ideas the world would be a much better, and happier place. I will have to try to get a copy of this one soon!

Jenny said...

This sounds like something I should read when I am a little more settled--I love it when books present small, helpful ideas of how to make the world a small bit better.

Debi said...

I'm the first to admit that I don't really understand a lot about economics...but I cringe every time I hear the words "economic growth." I just want to scream, "Why is growth all we care about?!! We obviously can't grow forever!" I think I would enjoy this book a great a deal--I love reading about sustainability, about the triple bottom line, about people doing things to try to make a difference. Thanks for sharing this review, Jeane! It's definitely going on my wish list...and hopefully I'll understand at least some of it. :P

Janet said...

This sounds like it has some of the ideas Wendell Berry talks about. Hard to imagine putting into practice though, considering how "globalized" the world has become.

Jeane said...

Gavin- You have to get through the tough, depressing first half to reach the inspiring stuff!

Zibilee- I think it would too. I try to do my part but it seems so small in the face of things.

Jenny- There's so much more to this book than the little helpful ideas. I think you'll find it quite invigorating

Debi- The author points out that as long as we have population growth, it's hard to stem economic growth unless we start having just small business that are happy to remain at one nicely profitable economic level and aren't greedy to just keep growing, growing. At least that's what I gathered. All the stuff about sustainability really got me excited!

Eva said...

This sounds good! Have you read any Bill McKibben? I loved Deep Economy and it sounds a bit similar to this.

Jeane said...

I've never read McKibben. Is he easy, reader-friendly? This one made my head hurt a lot!