Recently, I interviewed the author of a new book everyone in America should read as soon as possible. Titled Plenitude — The New Economics of True Wealth, this book by Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor is a positive and practical treatment on how we can re-orient our values away from a monetary-based way of thinking (and the “poverty consciousness” that comes with it). You can listen to the interview here.
First, the author shows how “business as usual” (which she refers to as “BAU”) is coming to an end, whether we like it or not. There is just no way that five percent of the world’s population will be allowed to consume 25 percent of the remaining oil, for instance — no matter how oversized its military may be.
Because of America’s careless indebtedness for consumption (and war), the developing world (where almost all of the oil is) is gaining relative power. Plus, two billion Chinese and Indians want to be over-consumers like us. Even if we reduce our own consumption (fat chance), the overall consumption is bound to grow with BUA. This is a huge problem because the planet cannot sustain higher levels of over-consumption, not to mention possibly violent competition for energy resources!
What can we do? What can YOU do? Schor’s book provides some new and surprising answers. In addition to letting go of BUA thinking — i.e. in which only things that are measured in dollars are considered valuable – the author encourages us to recognize our “true wealth” — things like the value of time, knowledge, community, creativity and nature. She is advocating for a radical change of orientation that includes less full-time “work” and more of a balanced life, based on real enrichment not consumption.