To move forward, increasing equality and happiness, we need to turn the clock back: thinking locally rather than globally, buying from and selling to our neighbors to create true communities.
McKibben (Wandering Home, 2005, etc.), who has worried about the fate of our planet since at least The End of Nature (1989), weighs in here on the pursuit of happiness. For too long, he observes, we have believed that more equals better and assumed that greater economic growth brings prosperity to all. Instead, he ably argues, growth has increased inequality and decreased human happiness. Americans have been consuming at an unconscionable rate, destroying their families and communities by working longer hours and patronizing huge corporations. Reporting from around the world—he offers examples from China, Bangladesh, India, Central America and elsewhere—McKibben revisits some topics close to his heart: global warming, the rapid depletion of fossil fuels, the growth of agribusinesses, the impending water crisis. He tells stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve both the local economy and the overall quality of local life. Farmers’ markets are growing around the country; merchants in a small Wyoming town are competing successfully with Wal-Mart (a corporation attacked throughout); a local Vermont radio station actually provides public services and serves the public interest. The author also tells his own stories, which are the gold in the alluvial gravel of all of his work. Here, he describes his recent determination to buy only from local farmers and to eat only foods that are in season. This is something we should all do, he avers; it not only improves the local economy but creates greater community cohesion as well.
McKibben tries to stay optimistic in his most quixotic work, but darkness presses at the edges of every page.