This spring, I attended a talk by Bill McKibben, sponsored by the Wisconsin Humanites Council. I didn't know much about McKibben or his work until then, but I was very impressed with his positive and hopeful outlook on some of the environmental issues we are facing: depletion of non-renewable resources and global warming in particular.
I have just read his latest book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, and it makes some of the same points as his talk did, but it also includes many concrete examples. McKibben says that nationally governments have done little or nothing on these issues and that the only real action has been on the local level.
He gives many examples of local iniatives to cut energy use and to promote community. Farmers markets like Madison's are only one example. McKibben stresses that individual and group actions can make a big difference.
He also says that the economic model that we are accustomed to, which includes the idea that bigger is better, and that cheap commerical goods promoted from overseas are essential, will no longer work in a changing world. The U.S. uses more resources than any other country and although China and India are trying to emulate our model, McKibben cautions that if they catch up with the U.S., that lifestyle will be unsustainable.
Some readers might find McKibben an alarmist. Or they might think he is unduly optimistic about society finding solutions to what seem like insurmountable issues. Whatever your perspective, you are given a lot to think about with this book.