HELPING OURSELVES: Local Solutions to Global Problems by Bruce Stokes

HELPING OURSELVES: Local Solutions to Global Problems

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The self-help principle is laudable--who does not root for urban homesteaders or farmers' markets? And the Worldwatch Institute is a fine, sturdy group. But unlike other Institute-sponsored publications (which include president Lester Brown's The Twenty-Ninth Day), this relatively brief volume reads like a long press release. In bland words and push-button formulations (""a worker who once spent the whole day tightening the same bolt,"" etc.), Stokes sets forth the case for: 1) worker participation--in shop-floor decisions, in plant ownership; 2) individual and community energy conservation; 3) self-help housing--especially with costs rising; 4) home food production--in backyard and community gardens; 5) self-administered health care--""an ounce of prevention"" to mutual-support treatment (AA, mental-health hotlines, cooperative ob-gyn clinics); and 6), more ticklish, ""family planning"" by peer pressure. To be sure, these several areas of possible action are ordinarily treated separately--which obscures their common, mutually-reinforcing values: democratic decision-making, economic independence, emotional sustenance, environmental protection. Small-is-beautiful--multiplied. Stokes is also mindful of the necessary intermediate steps--beginning, he suggests, with neighborhood self-help councils. And he does offer an occasional supportive--or cautionary--political insight. But most of the text is soft-sell exhortation stuffed with examples from the Great Clipping File of present-day panaceas--Swedish job humanization, Japanese consensual management, Chinese population control, and so on. There's none of the dynamism here of a Schumacher or an Illich; little of the command of a John Turner (Housing By People), an Erik Eckholm or Frances Lappe. So this is only for the most underexposed readers--who, beginning in high school, would be more fired up by reading any one of the foregoing.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1981
Publisher: Norton