Deep Economy: a book review

by Amber on February 16, 2009

As the country plunges further into recession, Deep Economy offers a financial solution based on common sense. Written long before the current financial crisis, Bill McKibben’s book casts doubt on our current model of capitalism, a system sustained by the production of everything from food to fuel on a massive scale: a model that benefits some, but leaves many behind. Instead, McKibben suggests we take a look closer to home at a financial model benefitting everyone, including our planet.

Chock full of case studies, the book features community organic farms in Cuba, solar energy sharing plans in U.S. neighborhoods, and rabbit micro-businesses in China. Globally, community members are coming together to develop new financial projects that branch out and touch the lives of all affected, while simultaneously protecting our planet. Sure, most folks realize the ecological benefits of eating locally—but who knew it could have financial pay-offs as well?

Deep Economy is not a liberal or a conservative text. Well researched, it draws upon economic studies to poke holes in the current American capitalist logic that suggests “more is better. “

McKibben points out that “The idea that there is a state called happiness, and that we can dependably figure out what it feels like and how to measure it, is extremely subversive. It would allow economists to start thinking about life in far richer terms, allow them to stop asking ‘What did you buy?’ and start asking ‘Is your life good?’…Because if you ask someone ‘Is your life good?’ and count on the answer to mean something, then you’ll be able to move to the real heart of the matter, the question haunting our moment on earth: Is more better?”

McKibben examines the benefits—psychological, financial, and environmental—of being part of a thriving community structure. The book dismisses as flawed our current economic model, which relies heavily on a sense of individualism, a model that the planet physically cannot sustain.

If Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle proves that eating locally is good for our planet, and Dr. Daphne Miller’s The Jungle Effect illustrates the health benefits of such a diet, then Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy casts the final, favorable vote by showing the financial benefits of local eating. This book stands up in favor of family, community, quality over quantity, planet sustainability, and richness of life.

As our politicians discuss bailout packages and CEO salaries, perhaps one of them will pick up a copy of Deep Economy. I believe they will find a winning solution in its pages. In the meantime, the book offers a way for all of us to follow its wisdom in our own, simple lives.

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