Beyond Growth: The Wealth of Community

The premise of Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future is that the economic axiom “growth is good” is no longer true.

Beyond Growth: The Wealth of Community
Photo is part of a poster from Syracuse Cultural Workers

In an article from Mother Jones, Bill states:

Growth no longer makes most people wealthier, but instead generates inequality and insecurity. Growth is bumping up against physical limits so profound — like climate change and peak oil — that trying to keep expanding the economy may be not just impossible but also dangerous. And perhaps most surprisingly, growth no longer makes us happier. Given our current dogma, that’s as bizarre an idea as proposing that gravity pushes apples skyward. But then, even Newtonian physics eventually shifted to acknowledge Einstein’s more complicated universe.

Well, then the question arises: If growth is no longer desirable, nor even possible, then what is desirable? What is the measure of true wealth and well being for all of us?

It’s in Bill’s title, the wealth of our interconnectedness, our community.

I find the analogy of a forest to be helpful. You can have a monoculture agri-forest with one type of tree and very few other species. But the same amount of land, water and sunlight can hold an old growth forest with a diverse species of plants; a whole community of beings interacting. The same amount of input of resources can generate a community of interaction.

In the same way, if you go to a local Megamarket, typically one or two conversations and interactions occur: “Paper or plastic?”, “Credit or debit?” On the other hand, a farmer’s market provides the same amount of groceries, yet you have interactions with many farmers, neighbors and children – and you’re supporting a local food system.

Josh Mailman, a serial eco-entrepreneur and massive sustainable business instigator speaks about his views on the matter.

I’m much more sanguine about the impact that we’ve been able to have, but I don’t want to discount the small acts. We have a need for small acts, and I consider the things I have done small acts, hopefully compassionate acts. To the extent that I’ve been able to make a contribution, it’s been out of a desire to build community, realizing that I’m no more important – and I think in many ways less so – than some local activist. The real leaders are the people that are in there day after day, slugging it out, who have chosen something other than monetary gain, who are there because they are fed by the experience of community that they have.

Barbara Marx Hubbard said:

If you do a planetary scan, you’ll see that communities are forming everywhere, and these communities are each holding the collective coding as well as the blueprint for a specific mission. I think these communities as separate yet interactive organs in the social body. And the potent interaction of these organic communities assure that the larger social body will be far greater than the sum of its parts.

I would add that our community is our greatest wealth. And we are the leaders of this movement. Each and every one of us.