I spent a long weekend on a much-needed vacation (the first trip that wasn't business- or family-related somehow in four years). What I love most about flying is the opportunity to hyper-focus on a book and just plow through it while in transit. For this trip I committed to Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, a book that I had tried somewhat unsuccessfully to read for the last six months or so.
I had heard all sorts of wonderful things about this book from various people in the months leading up to the Hello Etsy conference that the I Heart Art: Portland program organized last fall, and I'm happy to say that I finally finished reading it during that final descent into Portland.
McKibben starts by recapping our relatively dim future when it comes to climate change, peak oil, and the perils of agribusiness—that sustained economic growth ad infinitum is not sustainable—but then turns his focus to something more hopeful. He emphasizes the importance of renewing our participation and connection to community and ridding ourselves of our hyper-individualistic sensibilities that have been ingrained into us over time through decades of economic growth and mass marketing.
He offers examples and data about local farming movements (Portland included), shared living communities, and radio the way it was intended. He contrasts these concepts with the ultra-production of China's manufacturing industry and supplements them with inspiring community stories from around the world—from Cuba to Bangladesh to Brazil.
The book was published in 2007, so reading it from a 2012 perspective—nearly four years into this recession—makes it all the more powerful and insightful. So much of what he had to say rang true with my own thoughts around the ridiculousness of perpetual growth, our blatant disregard for those around us, and the crucial movements that have sprung up over the last decade or so to bring us back to the powerful society that we once were.
You don't have to be an economist to read this book—I certainly am not—but I give you fair warning that it might change your perspective and alter your life goals. Community is more important that money, more important than business success. We are global citizens and local denizens. If we are to survive what's coming down the road, we need to cling to each other. We need to take root in a deep economy.