Bill McKibben’s newest is perhaps his best. In his sociologic and economic musings on the declining environment and the shrinking planet, McKibben possesses all of his usual insight and provocation about our current dilemma, while offering even more hope and optimism about the path ahead (even if it promises to be a very difficult future).
What’s the dilemma? Simply put, the U.S. leads the way in a worldwide promotion of a way of life that is not sustainable– not for us or for anyone else. Each of us uses 6 times as much energy as the average Mexican, 38 times as much as the average Indian, and 531 times as much as the average Ethiopian. Most of who would love to live as we do, and all of whom have been told that such a way of life is key to their happiness, if not their economic future. The problem is, there aren’t enough resources for us, much less everyone else. The further problem is, we’re not happy, not really.
Our real enemy, as McKibben sees it, is not SUVs or CFCs, or shrinking ice caps or thinning ozone. The real enemy is individualism: my car, my radio, my home, my space, my entertainment, my dinner (no matter what the season, effect on the farmer, or environmental impact). So he suggests that we focus not on More, but rather on Better. The planet can’t produce much more, and we’re not getting any happier consuming more, so why not get off the merry-go-round? Utilize smaller economies, buying (or sharing!) foods and goods and services locally, rather than continuing to depend upon larger economies (which are at once efficient and wasteful: the average food item travels 1,500 miles, changing hands 6 times before it reaches your mouth). In the process, we’ll enjoy something that most of us have forgotten: community.