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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eaarth, part 2

As promised, Bill McKibben in the second part of his book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough Planet offers some hope, or rather, some hopeful signs that our culture is becoming different. It's too late to rescue the climate that made human civilization what it is (was), but re-making our lives will help the transition. His basic message? Small and local, with the internet binding us together in new bursts of creativity and community to balance all the boring little stuff we'll now have to do (grow things, save things, feel things).

The new efforts span the globe, yet get little publicity. The new efforts are incredible and amazing - McKibben gives scores of innovative examples for growing food and producing energy - yet they get little publicity. I didn't know, for example, that new farming methods can produce much higher yields than  the monocultures of mega-farms. I didn't know that rooftop solar panels and wind turbines could produce 81% of New York City's power. And on. And on. (Read the book.) It's embarrassing to read that places in the developing world are much more sophisticated than the US about organic farming (and get better yields).

I came away cursing the big-business obsession that dominates our dinner tables, our ambitions, our politics, our news, our lives. I am appalled to realize that industrial society is the first time in human history when one needs no neighbors to survive.

By the way, McKibben is pretty much a genius. He blends fact and fury, doom and hope, story and statement in an utterly compelling way. (Did I mention that you must read this book?) Like any good evangelist, he sometimes (in my opinion) minimizes the problems of freeing ourselves from Big Agriculture, Big Oil, Big Wind, Big Government (I mean, it's his own statistic that one barrel of oil equals about 11 years of manual labor - think about that for a moment) and I personally can't decide if the internet is ultimately a mind suck or a group hug - yet, I was terribly depressed and terribly inspired, both, by the book.

Here are two websites for further inspiration. Look at the daily news for further depression.



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