Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Bill McKibben”

Bill McKibben and the Durable Future

The other night I attended an interview of Authors Bill McKibben and Paul Hawken. I had just finished Bill McKibben’s excellent book, “Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future,” and was anxious to meet him and hear what he had to say. I had not read anything by Paul Hawken and he sounded interesting, but I’ll concentrate on McKibben’s work here.

Bill McKibben has written several books, but what he talked about in the interview was pretty much what was in Deep Economy. Mostly, McKibben advocates for smaller scale, more local economies and against globalization. His arguments take several forms.

As can be seen in many books of this general class, McKibben points out the waste involved (fuel, carbon output, etc) in global transport of food and other goods. In fact he talks about food quite a bit and gives many points to boost local farmers’ markets. He talks about something that is known to students of sustainability, but not the general public: that large, so-called “factory” farms actually produce considerably LESS food than smaller farms tended to closely by individual farmers with smaller-scale machinery. This is largely due to intimate knowledge of the variations in the land and to the ability to “intercrop,” or to plant one crop alongside or maybe in the shade of another. Large-scale machine farming makes both of these impractical.

But what is unique (or at least uncommon) about McKibben’s perspective is his attention to the social costs of globalization and the benefits of returning to local economies. He points out how our mobile economy has led to less socialization among neighbors, and people in general.

I can’t do it justice here, but Deep Economy is well worth reading. There’s a lot more to it but it’s not too difficult. Don’t be put off by the title, it’s written for non-economists. Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org (focused on climate change and actually doing something about it) which is organizing a huge, worldwide day of action called “Moving Planet” on Saturday, September 24th. Go to the website www.moving-planet.org and find out what’s happening near you.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com



10.10.10, 10th of October 2010, now how often does that happen? Seriously, today a colleague of mine, Kristen Caven, has helped initiate a day of awareness for the number 350. It sounds like a nice number to me, but Kristen has found out something rather more sinister.

The thing I want you to know about is a number. That number is 350, and it is significant because 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit that scientists have determined as the amount of carbon that can be present in our planet’s atmosphere to maintain stability. Throughout human history, 272 ppm has been the norm. Today this number hovers around 390. Surprise, surprise, our glaciers are melting.

Even though global warming makes me want to run around waving my arms and screaming, I know that being shrill turns people off. But this is too important to shut up about. I’ve got a kid, and he’s awesome, and I don’t want his future to be about sheer survival, but it very well could be. So I’m keeping my voice low and asking you politely to speak the fuck up.

Kristen and her friends have organized a “global work party” wherein writers, communicators, teachers, and anyone who signs up, will dedicate 350 words to this topic on 10.10.10. So here is my contribution.

Actually, mention science, and my eyes kind of glaze over, so I am going to cheat and offer the link to someone more articulate on such matters. There is even an idiot’s guide through a simple chart to enable people such as me to feel adequate.

Kristen, a professional illustrator, has also provided a cartoon from her latest collection.

Now cartoons, I understand.

With another fifty words still to write, allow me to refer you to the an excellent environmental blogger, Bill McKibben, who I believe has initiated the 350 movement. Thank you, Bill and Karen, for the innovative way of keeping the destiny of our future in our present.

There is a Jewish parable which tells of a man who, walking down a road, sees an old man planting a small tree in his orchard. He stops and watches as the old man struggled to dig the hole, push the small tree in, and cover up the hole.

“Old man,” he says. “Why work so hard? Surely you don’t expect to see that small tree bear fruit?”

The old man looked at him and then gestured at his orchard. “Just as my parents and grandparents planted these trees so that I may enjoy their fruit, so do I plant trees for my children and grandchildren.”

Happy 10.10.10, everyone.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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