I like the word. It conveys the sense of having enough but not in excess, an emphasis on need, not want. I heard the author, Juliet Schor, interviewed on NPR recently. I stopped what I was doing because this lady was making good sense and was saying things I’ve heard said over coffee and at board meetings in Floyd in the past months.
I’d like to think I’ll stop what I’m doing, order the book, read it, and translate its wisdom into my life on Goose Creek, in Floyd County and the changing world. The good news is that more and more people are pausing in their reflexive spend-growth ways of recovery and thinking “There’s got to be a better way.” There is. Plenitude points the way.
Humans are degrading the planet far faster than they are regenerating it. As we travel along this shutdown path, food, energy, transport and consumer goods are becoming increasingly expensive. The economic downturn that has accompanied the ecological crisis has led to another type of scarcity: incomes, jobs, and credit are also in short supply. Our usual way back to growth — a debt-financed consumer boom — is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford.
Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead it’s an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure.
And as Schor observes, Plenitude is already emerging. In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers’ lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity and community. Urban farmers, D.I.Y renovators, Craig’s List users, cob builders — all are spreading their risk and establishing novel sources of income and outlets for procuring consumer goods. Taken together, these trends represent a movement away from the conventional market and offer a way toward an efficient, rewarding life in an era of high prices and traditional resource scarcity.