Living Richly in an Age of Limits

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This is Bill Deval’s third and best book about Deep Ecology. Starting with a semi-autobiographical history of the second half of the twentieth century, he recounts the cultural development of America, based on a confident profligacy that was ultimately increasingly questioned by the realisation of the environmental damage that it was causing.  

This sets the tone for the book, which aims to analyse various aspects of people’s lives so as to propose how they may be aligned as close as possible to Deep Ecology principles. In a chapter headed “philosophical Roots for Greening our Lifestyles”, Devall first examines the nature of the idea “lifestyle” and then goes on to draw on the various wisdoms of Deep Ecology proponents from Barry Commoner to Joanna Macy and from Arne Naess to Aldo Leopold. What is unique about this book, however, is the way it offers advice on how to experience nature in our lives, how to think on a grand ecological scale (Thinking like a watershed/bioregion) and then how to bring valid ecological principles into our home making. 

He confronts conventions about the family and addresses the population issue, introducing the idea of ‘nonparenting’ as a socially acceptable norm. His ideas about food, organisational reform, eco-cities and even eco-tourism demonstrate a passionate determination to bring green principles to bare on the kind of middle class western life we are all so locked into in a way that is practical, pragmatic and evolutionary. 

Not to say that he doesn’t address the issue of social activism, but he tries to seek non confrontational ways the individual can bring great influence to bare, especially if green activities are amplified by the effect of the changing habits of millions. Written in 1993, primarily addressed to the American public, the tone of the book is much less revolutionary and demanding than we have come to expect through the activities of Extinction Rebellion and others. 

The book obviously predates by some 25 years the current predilection for direct action to address politicians’ and corporate industry’s denial of climate catastrophe and biological collapse, challenging them to ‘tell the truth’ and face up to the dire consequences of ‘business as usual’, but it is no less relevant for that. What is so sad is that, in spite of so much wise counsel, our mainstream society continues along its suicidal trajectory and on an increasingly Global scale.

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