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.