The Wealth of Communities
The premise of Bill McKibben's new book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future is that the economic axiom "growth is good" is no longer true. In a recent article from Mother Jones he states:
"Growth no longer makes most people wealthier, but instead generates inequality and insecurity. Growth is bumping up against physical limits so profound -- like climate change and peak oil -- that trying to keep expanding the economy may be not just impossible but also dangerous. And perhaps most surprisingly, growth no longer makes us happier. Given our current dogma, that's as bizarre an idea as proposing that gravity pushes apples skyward. But then, even Newtonian physics eventually shifted to acknowledge Einstein's more complicated universe."
The question then arises: if growth is no longer desirable, nor even possible, then what is good? What is the measure of true wealth and well being? The answer is right there in Bill's title: the wealth of our interconnectedness, our community.
The analogy of a forest is helpful. A monoculture agri-forest has a primary type of tree and few other species. But an old growth forest, using the same amount of land, water and sunlight as an agri-forest, has many species of plants - a whole community of beings interacting.
It's the same when you go to a local megamarket: there are typically one or two conversations and interactions, such as "paper or plastic?" or "credit or debit"? But at a farmer's market, buy the same amount of groceries and you can have interactions with many different farmers, neighbors, children. You're supporting an entire local food system.
Josh Mailman, a serial eco-entrepreneur and sustainable business instigator speaks on his views on the matter:
"I'm much more sanguine about the impact that we've been able to have, but I don't want to discount the small acts. We have a need for small acts, and I consider the things I have done small acts, hopefully compassionate acts. To the extent that I've been able to make a contribution, it's been out of a desire to build community, realizing that I'm no more important - and I think in many ways less so - than some local activist. The real leaders are the people that are in there day after day, slugging it out, who have chosen something other than monetary gain, who are there because they are fed by the experience of community that they have."
Barbara Marx Hubbard said, "If you do a planetary scan, you'll see that communities are forming everywhere, and these communities are each holding the collective coding as well as the blueprint for a specific mission. I think these communities as separate yet interactive organs in the social body. And the potent interaction of these organic communities assure that the larger social body will be far greater than the sum of its parts."
Our community is our greatest wealth, and we all are the leaders of the movement to grow this wealth. Our lives depend on a vast network of people, 99% of whom we will never meet. Just think of the number of people it took for you to have your daily cup of tea or coffee, or piece of toast, or oatmeal, or electricity - and that's just people. Add all of the animals, plants, earth, energy, air and water involved in making that cup of tea, and the "community" you live in, and the systems that sustain it, expands exponentially!