From the Blog

Now Reading: Plenitude, The Economics of True Wealth

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I finished up Plenitude. I realized, looking at the spelling of “Plenitude,” that I’ve always thought of that word as having an extra “t.” I’ve spent my whole life thinking it was “plentitude.” I’m sure I’ve pronounced it that way in conversation with unsuspecting people. I’m smart.

I liked this book, and it came at a good time as we are planning our move to a smaller town. Reading the introduction was a validation of our choices, work less hours, buy less cheap crap, become more self providing, try to spend our money locally.

She loads up the first half of the book with hard data of our usage. She mentions that previous environmental movements have an uphill battle against sounding shrill and alarmist. There was quite a lot of space dedicated to statistics and economic indicators that take this book well out of the touchy feely category.

The second half of the book was sunnier, proposing solutions, highlighting new technologies and redefining what “Plenitude” means. Sounds great. I read a book like this, which advocates moving towards sustainability, and masses of people making personal choices that equal a larger good, and I think it all sounds great. And I also wonder if it will ever happen. I think about the massive forces working against any sort of long term thinking. The consumerist thoughtlessness, the American entitlement, the push to make people more misinformed, I sort of despair when reading a book like this. It’s too much to hope that it would catch on to the point it will make a difference. On a macro level.

I wouldn’t normally call myself a cynic. I do believe we can make better personal choices. But I am cynical because even though I agree with most of what the author is advocating, I hear the shortsighted counter arguments and talking points looping in the back of my my mind like a TV channel. However ill informed, those arguments are louder, better financed, and ultimately, more powerful.

In short, we’re doomed.

She touched upon a phenomenon that has baffled me and made me sad. We’ve had a number of profound political, economic and environmental global events occur in the past dozen years. Events where it felt like the world would never be the same. The economic meltdown in 2008 was one of them. It seemed like shit really, really hit the fan. It seemed like the profit-at-all-costs, “business as usual” mentality that led us into that mess would be shaken to its core. Surely we would see the limitations of our current system. The planet is not expanding. We would realize there needed to be changes.

But instead, the rush to return to “business as usual” (she shortens it to BAU) squelched any real reform on a macro level. It was more than just a rush, it was a directive. It’s stronger than ever. It completely baffles me.

However. I have to hope that things are different on a micro level. The micro level comes from our households and our personal choices. The top-down approach is to reinforce our “spend and expand” model. The bottom-up approach is make choices with our dollars and our time. It’s quieter, it’s slower, and it doesn’t get as much ink in the news. There are indicators that it’s a movement that is picking up steam, at least in our corner of the world. I hope so.

Otherwise we are DOOOOOMED!

It’s a good book. You should read it.

More books I’ve read over here.


  1. i so agree. it seems like it should be a no-brainer, these changes to improve conditions. but honestly, most people cant be bothered. i interact with people up here in republican-land, and they are astonishingly uninterested in improving things on a global level, or even an individual one, which is where things movements/changes must take place. buy the biggest gas guzzling car, buy the biggest tv conceivable, feed your children processed crap, teach them isolationism and bigotry. can you tell i am having a pessimistic day? lol. weak lol.
    there are small pockets of resistance. the grow your own food movement is gaining traction here, which is wonderful. but so many other things are being ignored. they say time will change things, but i just don’t see that happening here.
    so sad.

  2. interesting and …..sad. the push for more jobs, get the economy rolling again. But I heard a question posed on NPR this week. Why are we a nation of spenders, and not savers. I hear tons of reports stating “consumer spending is up”..blah blah. Why aren’t we saving?

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