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A practical guide to moderating wasteful modern lifestyles to benefit the larger global community.
Wann (Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, 2007, etc.) argues that changes in such variables as climate, population and resource availability are forcing consumer cultures to dispense with "the throwaway mind[set]." The author seeks "to evaluate and guide decisions that can steer us clear of both personal and planetary bankruptcy." Toward that end, Wann first examines the contexts—historical, social, economic—and the attendant value systems that have made "having more, and having it faster" the central mission of Western societies. The Industrial Revolution fostered a mentality that celebrated the pursuit of profit, regardless of human and environmental costs. In a world now threatened by overpopulation and resource depletion, however, that way of thinking is not only unsustainable, but also dangerous. According to Wann, three barriers exist to fully bringing about a saner, more holistic way of life for everyone: "cultural crisis, hyperindividuality and overproductivity." Rather than simply critiquing the problems that plague modern capitalist societies, the author offers a detailed 33-point "new normal agenda" built on convincing statistical and anecdotal information. The plan emphasizes informed activist approaches to problem-solving and focuses on such timely issues as decentralizing and localizing economic structures, reducing carbon emissions, promoting urban organic agriculture and restoring environmental integrity. While Wann's message is urgent, it is never strident and offers hope in an age of pessimism and scarcity. If humanity can understand that "the overall theme of nature is not bloodthirsty competition, but functional, celebratory interdependence and cooperation" writes the author, then individuals and groups can create lives that, though materially leaner, are healthier and more fulfilling.
Powerful, grounded reading for the challenges of 21st-century living.
Introduction: Once Upon a Paradigm, When Growth Was King 1
1 The Software of Civilization 17
2 Why Not a Nonprofit Economy? 36
3 Overfed but Undernourished 86
4 Getting Carbon Out of Our Systems 121
5 Living Wealth: Restoring the Economies of Nature 149
6 Where We Live to Consume, or Where We Come to Life? 188
7 Revolt of the Munchkins: Value, Not Volume, in the Market 216
8 Social Alchemy: Creating a New Normal 239
Recommended Readings 261
Posted February 24, 2011
David Wann's thorough and enlightened book is not for the casual reader. His plane is ambitious, policy changing and challenging. Yet, his writing suggest a practicality and honesty that is hard to argue with. The New Normal talks about systematic change in digestible easy to understand solutions. I found myself believing fully that with some thoughtful changes and community activism that real change is in the power of the individual. The challenge, dear reader is on you to take his action plan and propel it forward. The chapter entitled "overfed and undernourished" is particularly interesting and doable. The idea of eating locally, while not a new one is put into context not only for what each of us can do to feed our families more responsibly, but to have our choices extend far beyond our own dinner tables. It's not just about shopping your local farmer's market, it is about changing the way we eat, grow and purchase food. But this is one of many theories that Mr. Wann explores, renewable energy, an affordable economy and consumerism are larger areas for Wann to re imagine. Within those large policy issues lie a new paradigm that Wann sets force with simple eloquence. The notion that stuck with me throughout the book was sustainability, something that we have learned if not guarded, can be a fleeting notion. I highly recommend this book as a blue print for how we should live. Like Ghandi once said, "You must be the change, you wish in the world." I was inspired by this hefty volume and plan to use it as a reference tool. It will change the way you view "normal!"
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Posted April 7, 2011
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