Monday, August 27, 2007

Back Talk

OK, I need your help. Sakonnet needs your help. If you ever wanted to get that idea out there, your two cents that by-golly you just haven't had the soapbox to shout from, here's your opportunity.

Where is Sakonnet going when it comes to sustainability? How green is our community? Where should our elected leaders be focusing their efforts? How can you and I help transform our neighborhoods (and neighbors) into more conscious, more action-oriented places of sustainability? What is the most important environmental issue for you?

We need a community agenda. We need to rally our community behind it. We need to see our collective vision into reality.

If you are one of those people who so graciously stop by from time to time to check this blog out, do us all a favor and chime in. Say your peace. Throw something out there for our readers to react to.

You know what's on my mind. What's on yours?

Thursday, August 16, 2007


The need to act today for the benefit of tomorrow is not a hard concept to grasp. Still, the imperative continues to elude a great number of us.

Many, many people write about it; argue the potential consequences; implore us to act. Why isn’t the message hitting home? Perhaps the approach is missing the mark. Maybe we’re looking at the problem the wrong way.

I recently came upon this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, promoter of inter-faith dialogue, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, while at I've read several of Thay's books and have a great respect for him.

With All Our Heart
By Thich Nhat Hanh, "Our Appointment with Life"

When we throw a banana peel into the garbage, if we are mindful, we know that the peel will become compost and be reborn as a tomato or a lettuce salad in just a few months. But when we throw a plastic bag into the garbage, thanks to our awareness, we know that a plastic bag will not become a tomato or a salad very quickly. Some kinds of garbage need four or five hundred years to decompose. Nuclear waste needs a quarter of a million years before it stops being harmful and returns to the soil. Living in the present moment in an awakened way, looking after the present moment with all our heart, we will not do things which destroy the future. That is the most concrete way to do what is constructive for the future. 

Being truly mindful of the present moment. Clarity. Deep understanding. How many of us are there? How many of us are truly awake?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Book Review: "Deep Economy"

I’m back from a week traveling through the vast and varied landscapes of Utah. Simply put: It is amazing, at times humbling, and all in all, a visit that everyone should put on their list of places to see.

The trip was an apropos setting for reading through Bill McKibben’s latest effort, "Deep Economy". Admittedly, while I’ve heard much of McKibben and his efforts, I had not read much beyond the occasional article or editorial. His style is simple, straight-forward, with an engaging prose that doesn’t overload you with facts and figures.

The premise is simple: Society – and in particular the U.S. – has lost it’s sense of community in its quest for what he terms "More" instead of the "Better" (caps intended). The economics of a global society, in which individualistic gain supercedes all else, has eroded that which made the communities of generations before us great (and sustainable). Gone is the inter-connectedness, the ability to be self-sufficient and self-reliant; gone is the importance of getting to know your neighbors instead of pursuing the rat race of keeping up with the Jones; gone is the communal thread that wove the fabric of local nature. The result: A society where most people are less happy and satisfied than even just the generation before them; communities that continue to drift apart with each successive housing or retail development; an environment that just can no longer support this ever-increasing consumption of natural resources in the pursuit of More.

Throughout the book, McKibben uses startling facts the drive home the message. Data from a variety of sources – economic, social sciences, government -- when coupled with real-life examples of both good community in action and the results of bad community breakdown, makes for a compelling story.

The solution? A radical shift in society that will restructure our approach to day-to-day life, not only at the personal level but at the community level as well. McKibben focuses on three critical areas in which this shift needs to occur: food production and consumption, energy, and cultural norms. Admittedly, this shift will take time, even generations, but at our present course, we don’t have many options.

The example I love the most is that of the community radio station. Low watts, limited reach, but oh so organic... It's like community glue in the form of radio waves.

Bottom line: This is a thought-provoking read. One that I recommend to anyone who has the slightest inclination of better understanding the ultimate need to re-invest in our local communities, re-connect our neighbors, and start re-focusing in on those things that truly matter in our world – a world that is quickly succumbing to the self-destructive mantra of more, more, more. If you think Wal-Mart is the best thing since sliced bread, you need to read this even more.

(Note: Tiverton’s library doesn’t carry this book, but you can order it through the online Ocean State Libraries system.)

Have you read this book? Are you a fan or critic of McKibben? Please take a moment to share your thoughts.