Submitted by Frank Spizuoco: “We have gained wealth but we are losing our souls.” So says Pat Murphy, author of Plan C, the selected reading of Abbott's Book Club for January. This book provides a vivid analysis of our present predicament of peak oil (and rising energy prices), climate change and the growing social and economic inequity both in the US and globally.
Pat Murphy is the Director of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, a non-profit organization that educates on the benefits and values of small local community living. It has become a national resource for knowledge and practices on low-energy and low-pollution ways of living and self-reliant communities.
Our present course of more oil drilling, more growth, more carbon dioxide emissions, more consumption, more of a gap between the haves and have-nots isn't practical or sustainable, according to Murphy. That we can shop our way out of climate change and peak oil, if only we consume “green” products and services is also not realistic he claims. Plan C advocates a drastic reduction in consumption as the necessary ingredient for a sustainable, equitable world. Replacing competition with cooperation and replacing materialism with meaningful human relationships, makes an appealing case for unique places where neighbors care for each other and communities work cohesively to achieve a common wealth that has little to do with money.”
The text is filled with timely solutions addressing food, transportation, and the built environment within the context of revitalizing our communities even though a curtailment will involve much personal sacrifice. Could this be what President-Elect Barack Obama alluded to during his acceptance speech in Chicago? He called on a, “new spirit of sacrifice,” and asked Americans to summon, “a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility,” and called on us to look after ourselves and each other. This doesn't sound like an appeal for us to hit the malls and spend and spend.
Writes Murphy: “Those who make the transition successfully with minimal risk will be more prepared to live in a future that is poorer in material goods but richer in spiritual, psychological, and community benefits. Our problem is cultural, not technical. “It is a character issue, not a scientific one. We have allowed cheap fossil fuels to change us from citizens into mere consumers. We in the modern world have become addicted to consuming energy.”
Plan C depicts a radically different America where our collective well-being, community health, and personal happiness minimizes the consumption culture we compete in today. Economically, there will be a return to the local economy, with neighbors selling to neighbors, meeting needs, not wants, and more family-scale ecopreneurial businesses. We can live better by purchasing less, if only we let go of the misdirected and destructive more-bigger-faster mantra of our consumer culture enticed by corporate greed and political power.
Abbott's Book Club meets at the library on January 28 at 6PM. You can also pick up February's read, “Audacity of Hope,” by Barack Obama.
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