March 6, 2007
In this powerful and provocative manifesto, Bill McKibben offers the biggest challenge in a generation to the prevailing view of our economy. For the first time in human history, he observes, “more” is no longer synonymous with “better” – indeed, for many of us, they have become almost opposites. McKibben puts forward a new way to think about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all.
The animating idea of Deep Economy is that we need to move beyond “growth” as the paramount economic ideal and pursue prosperity in a more local direction, with cities, suburbs, and regions producing more of their own food, generating more of their own energy, and even creating more of their own culture and entertainment. McKibben shows this concept blossoming around the world with striking results, from the burgeoning economies of India and China to the mature societies of Europe and New England. For those who worry about environmental threats, he offers a route out of the worst of those problems; for those who wonder if there isn’t something more to life than buying, he provides the insight to think about one’s life as an individual and as a member of a larger community.
A generation ago, many environmentalists advocated “deep ecology,” through which they sought to move beyond short-term, piecemeal reforms by asking profound questions about the choices people make in their daily lives. McKibben demonstrates that we need a similar shift in our thinking about economics – we need to think about the “deep economy” that takes human satisfaction and societal durability more seriously. As he so eloquently shows, the more we nurture the essential humanity of our economy, the more we will recapture our own.
Bill McKibben is the author of ten books, including The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information, and Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Review of Books, among other publications. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Helpern, and their daughter.