Welcome to Plenitude

Welcome to Plenitude: the blog and my new website. I’m here to plant a stake in the heart of the Business-As-Usual economy and its bankrupt politics. As I write, oil is spewing out into the Gulf of Mexico, at the rate of perhaps 70,000 barrels a day, and a deadlocked Congress has produced an energy bill that calls for expanded offshore drilling. It’s true madness.

It’s one more example that the Business-as-Usual economy (to borrow a term from the climate discourse) has become profoundly dysfunctional. That conclusion is becoming widely accepted. But we’re having trouble moving beyond it. Plenitude is a vision for doing just that—getting us on a path that reverses the rampant destruction of the planet caused by BAU and restoring true well-being to people and communities. With the political system unable to reign in the corporations that drive emissions and economic activity, Plenitude starts in another place: with people. Its strategy is to say let’s get going on the path of reconstruction now. And it explains why it’s not only what we need to do for survival, but it embodies a savvy economic calculus.

Image from the 2010 BP oil disaster

It’s based on an idea that’s novel to the sustainability discourse, but is has been around in standard economics since the 1960s: when the returns from one activity fall, shift one’s energy and time into others. This is the theory of time allocation pioneered by Chicago economist Gary Becker. It’s also just plain common sense.

In the year 2010 this approach counsels shifting out of BAU jobs, to local, small-scale activity that helps reduce dependence on the market system and lowers ecological footprint. Why is this attractive? One reason is that the BAU market has less to offer. It is failing to provide adequate jobs on a staggering scale. An estimated 26 million Americans are either unemployed, under-employed or have gotten discouraged and stopped looking for work. That problem won’t go away even if the recovery continues. Incomes have fallen and government services are being cut. Wall Street and the wealthy have protected their outsized share of society’s production, but for the vast majority the prognosis is austerity.

Even if the recovery continues, wages and incomes are not likely to recover their pre-crash trajectory, in part because ecological constraints are closing in on us. As the global economy grows, rising prices for energy and food on the world market will erode the incomes offered by BAU. That’s what the standard discourse has to offer. You’ll be hearing more and more about belt-tightening, the need to sacrifice, and what we can’t afford. It’s a mantra that is coming from corporations to their employees, from government to their citizens, and from economists to anyone who will listen. It’ll dominate the debate about the deficit.

But trade-off economics is wrong. If we abandon BAU, we can transcend many of the no-win options currently on offer, discover new sources of wealth and re-invigorate old, but neglected ones. In future posts, I’ll get into detail on what these are.

BREAKING: Large Air Spill At Wind Farm. No Threats Reported. Some Claim To Enjoy The Breeze.

Plenty of people have already started down this path. They’re growing vegetables, raising chickens and keeping bees. They’re going off the grid with solar and wind. They’re building their own homes, often with the help of friends and neighbors, using earth-friendly materials like straw, stone and compressed earth. They’re using open-source software to share newly acquired know-how about this alternative production paradigm. It’s a way of life that’s rich in creativity and autonomy. This movement is taking place in cities, small-towns and in rural areas. It’s not back-to-the land, it’s forward to a technologically advanced, knowledge-intensive way of life that is providing not only food, shelter and power, but also security, community and true well-being.

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59 Responses to “Welcome to Plenitude”

  1. Hello,this is Annika Hocate,just identified your Post on google and i must say this blog is great.may I quote some of the article found in the web site to my local mates?i’m not sure and what you think?anyhow,Thank you!

  2. Juliet Schor says:

    You’re welcome to take any of the blog posts and send them around. I’ll be putting up a new one tomorrow. The site also has some video and print content you
    may be interested in. Where are you located?

  3. Fay Dooley says:

    Hi Juliet, heard you on ABC radio, so refreshing and hopeful. Economics is the means of change and I love the half glass full atitude and holistic approach to eco systems, diversification and using fully the resources we have at our hand rather than getting into the addiction of retail. This is the same thought of the 70s wind and solar power and organic farming, we had a small farm with organic strawberries and pigs, cow and many other animals. To get back to really using product that has been manufactured to last would solve the huge problem of waste. So many crafts have been lost because it is a throw away society. I live in New South Wales on the mid north coast. Well done brilliant work.

  4. Fay Dooley says:

    Hi Juliet, heard you on ABC radio, so refreshing and hopeful. Economics is the means of change and I love the half glass full attitude and holistic approach to eco systems, diversification and using fully the resources we have at our hand rather than getting into the addiction of retail. This is the same thought of the 70s wind and solar power and organic farming, we had a small farm with organic strawberries and pigs, cow and many other animals. To get back to really using product that has been manufactured to last would solve the huge problem of waste. So many crafts have been lost because it is a throw away society. I live in New South Wales on the mid north coast. Well done brilliant work.

  5. Juliet – I love your work. I’ve read most of your books and just started reading Plenitude. I’m fascinated by simple living, consumerism, and economics. I hope the ideas presented in Plenitude will become part of mainstream discourse. :)

  6. Juliet Schor says:

    Dear Fay and Tammy

    So glad to hear from you and learn that you’re reading Plenitude. We need to get these ideas out, and especially into the mainstream, which I think is beginning to
    happen. All the best, Juliet

  7. Jessica Green says:

    Thank you for your work. You are a wonderful voice in the wilderness. I was surprised to find out that you are an economist since it’s been my experience that familiarity seems to reinforce blindness!

    My husband and I saw much more clearly the futility and emptiness of the consumer lifestyle after returning from a three month trip to S.E. Asia. We want out and are currently plotting how to make our life outside of the U.S. in a simpler culture. However, every time I throw away one of those little plastic tabs on a milk carton or on one of my ink cartridges, I think of it ending up on a formerly pristine beach in a tropical paradise. The beach in Ko Samui off of Thailand, which otherwise looks just like most people’s screensaver was coated with them and unlike the same scenario in tropical Central America, they have “developed” trash sanitation facilities. It’s madness.

  8. Juliet Schor says:

    Jessica

    Thanks for your message. Your heartbreaking description reminds me of the superb work of Chris Jordan (chrisjordan.com) who photographed
    the death of baby albatrosses in the Pacific due to plastics engorgement. It is not to be missed, truly devastating work. Good luck with your
    quest for a better life. I hope you like my book. Juliet

  9. Brad Hindle says:

    Hello Juliet. I am wondering if you are as disappointed with the wind power industry as I am. It is a shame, in my opinion that the mega corps have again made a good idea into a capitalist gain industry. I would not doubt that the newest, biggest,baddest wind mills are approaching $1,000,000.00 to erect and add all the infrastructure to move the power to where it needs to be.Again we are forced to pay exorbitant prices for energy. .It seems to me that if each home and business had a small windmill and /or solar panels tied into the grid we would not need these mega projects.Maybe Arnold should have given all the homeowners in California a tax break to outfit their homes in SoCal to remedy their power shortage problems.But then where’s the profit for the mega corps? Any thoughts?

  10. frances hammond says:

    Dear Juliet:
    I heard about you first in my car listening to your interview on the Diane Rehm show. I’m very taken with your approach. I have an economics and sociology background and I find the logic of your discussion very appealing.

    I’m about 2/3 through your book and already thinking about my own life and how to make adjustments. Beyond myself, I am also thinking about my community. At my church (St Stephen’s Episcopal, Troy, Michigan). we are designing our stewardship focus for the fall. I would love to combine the idea of Ubuntu – our inter connectedness, with Plenitude. Do you have a 10 or so minute video where you lay out the argument for and (more importantly) the principles of Plenitude? I think it is too much to expect most of our community to read your book (but some will), but even a little segment of you at your desk talking to your computer camera (David Plouffe style) would be powerful. Appreciate any thoughts and help. frances

  11. Katie Spencer says:

    Juliet,

    I have just started reading your book, and I support the whole idea of Plentitude. In fact, I have even thought about some of these things in past years and found myself hoping for them, but like you say, Plentitude is designed to start with the people and work it’s way up to government. I think it is great that you have written a book to inform us on Plentitude. The only problem I can see is that I fear this book would be too difficult to understand for most of the population. I hate to say it, but if this movement is going to start from the ground up then I think this book can only reach a fraction of the population. The other part of the population wouldn’t be able to understand it. I mean no disrespect at all, and I think you are a brilliant woman; unfortunately, a large part of our population isn’t.

  12. Muy informativo. Saludos

  13. leslie taylor says:

    I like your ideas in general, and I am changing my diet to consist of seasonal, local food, but when I think about growing my own food, I think about what I am then not buying from small producers in my area who depend upon the income for their living. What to do?

  14. Hello,just discovered your Blog when i google something and wonder what web hosting do you use for your web site,the speed is more faster than my web site, i really want to know it.will back to check it out,thank you!

  15. [...] to explore, biodegradable plastic as an alternative. In addition, there are those who advocate a shift in the way we do business which may also be a part of the answer to realizing new business models that are profitable and [...]

  16. Juliet Schor says:

    Leslie,
    Supporting local businesses is good, and if you don’t have a desire to grow your own food, there’s no need to.
    On a wider scale, self-provisioning is part of how people will cope with having less income if they work fewer hours.
    Are there other areas in which you might want to self-provision? Juliet

  17. Juliet Schor says:

    My site is hosted by Catalyst Webworks, the people who designed it. They’re a great small business (two people) who are practicising a Plenitude lifestyle.
    You might want to find out about them. Their hosting fees are very reasonable. Juliet

  18. Juliet Schor says:

    Dear Katherine,
    I tried to write a widely accessible book, but you may be right. In any case, ideas travel from person to person, so as long as some people read (and get) it, then the ideas will get passed on more widely. At least that’s how most of the models of cultural change that I know about work. Not everyone has to drink from the source, as it were. I’m glad you like the ideas though. Maybe you will want to re-write them in new ways that are more accessible to the people you know who you think couldn’t benefit from my presentation. All the best, Juliet

  19. [...] to explore, biodegradable plastic as an alternative. In addition, there are those who advocate a shift in the way we do business which may also be a part of the answer to realizing new business models that are profitable and [...]

  20. John Hammon says:

    Great stuff. I was recommended to your book and ideas to help find myself to the front side of the economic wave. I think that everything has it place and I’m not sure how the new economy is going to treat some of my favorite subjects, such as space travel and such, but I’m also very eager to see how it works. I would rather be a part of it, rather then watch some big company or government bill us to death and then take all the credit.

    Power to the people!

    Are there any recommended forums for discussion of ideas, momentums, etc, for people that want to start this sort of thing in our local community?

  21. Juliet Schor says:

    Great to hear fmor your John and I hope you love the book. Plenitude is a clear alternative to big companies or big govt. There are some examples in the book of groups that are working on these ideas. Probably the closest to what you are asking for would be Transition Towns. BALLE is a group for small and local businesses trying to create vibrant local economies and communities. Those two are probably best for starting. To get a sense of the range of ideas in this movement, you could try Bioneers as well, in terms of a website to get onto. Let me know how it goes! Best, Juliet

  22. Burt Ferre says:

    Found your site on another blog post, great content, but the site looks awkward in my browser setup, but works fine in IE. Go figure.

  23. Juliet Schor says:

    Dear Burt, So glad you like the content. Please pass it on. All the best, Juliet

  24. [...] need to work less. Juliet Schor on Big Think. The author of Plenitude argues that Americans would benefit from working shorter hours – particularly when there are 26m [...]

  25. [...] Juliet Schor, author of Plentitude, will keynote. To register for the conference, please contact jofrench@bard.edu. There is no charge [...]

  26. Irene says:

    Hi Juliet,

    I’ve almost finished reading Plenitude and I’ve been really impressed. I’ve thought for years that in the US we are so reluctant to recognize those issues that the market just can’t deal with and let the government play a role.

    Your book came out before the health care reform bill was passed. I was wondering if you think it will have much impact on increasing the availability and decreasing the cost of health insurance for people who are not covered by their employer.

  27. Juliet Schor says:

    Dear Irene

    I’m so glad you like the book. I do think that health care availability makes following this path easier. And to answer the questions you asked, I do think so based on the Massachusetts experience. There’s low cost, good health care available with govt subsidies and cost controls in MA. On the other hand, the reform hasn’t cut out the insurance companies, who are a big drain on the system who provide no value. So there are looming deficits that have to be dealt with. But I see the reform as a process. We would have been a lot better with single payer, but we got insurance-friendly reform instead. We’ll see how it plays out. It is great for poor people who get excellent health care and drugs. Of course that’s partly because we have no for-profit care in MA. We have university hospitals around Boston that are better than most of what passes for case these days.

    Please spread the word about the ideas in my book. We need more people working to make these changes. All the best, Juliet

  28. [...] fall, at the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies on 9/24, from 3 pm-9 pm. Economist Juliet Schor, author of Plentitude, will keynote. To register for the conference, please contact jofrench@bard.edu. There is no charge [...]

  29. [...] Juliet Schor, economist, sociologist, longtime Harvard professor and author of such classics as Do Americans Shop Too Much?, interprets the transience of trends as a ploy to boost retail sales, an ugly sprocket in a political machine that thrives on consumption. The PVC shoes Gaetano Pesce made this season for Melissa carry a DIY component that prods consumers to take up arms against dictated trends. These customizable booties may have been designed by an Italian for a Brazilian company, but there’s something authentically American about buying a specific (not inexpensive, not particularly nice looking) shoe for the purpose of buying the right to cut it up, and calling it a victory for personalization. It is a step in the right direction, if it will allow sticklers for trends to step outside their comfort zone, with a pair of shoes that says, “Hey look, I carved this design with my own hands.” The victory of function over form will owe much to the trend toward DIY in that doing things yourself allows customization and increased utility, but using customization to make a desired statement is passé, because social statements are cheap. [...]

  30. [...] From Parson Malthus to Donella and Dennis Meadows to Herman Daly and, most recently, Tim Jackson, Juliet Schor, Peter Victor and many others – economists, policy-makers, ecologists, and biologists have [...]

  31. [...] that can stabilize the climate, and create a just, prosperous and sustainable future. Economist Juliet Schor, author of Plentitude, will keynote. To register for the conference, please contact jofrench@bard.edu. There is no charge [...]

  32. [...] Juliet Schor’s excellent new book, Plenitude, has left me thinking about whether a country can be both rich and green. We can see the challenge [...]

  33. [...] Juliet Schor’s excellent new book, Plenitude, has left me thinking about whether a country can be both rich and green. We can see the challenge [...]

  34. [...] Dr. Juliet Schor, one of my favorite writers, just came out with a new book called Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth. In the book she lays out my ideal future – one based on resource conservation and learning to get more from less. [...]

  35. [...] = 'WritersVoice'; Juliet Schor Economist Juliet Schor talks about her latest book, PLENITUDE, and what it can tell us about living well in a world where the economy and the environment are in [...]

  36. chickenlove says:

    Awesome ideas there, thanks. I actually took the plunge and got me some chickens last week! Now I have more eggs than I know what to do with!. You might be interested in these egg recipes.

  37. Thanks for this wonderful post! It has been extremely insightful. I hope that you will continue posting your knowledge with us.

  38. Juliet Schor says:

    Thank you. I’ve been swamped with teaching and speaking about my book but will be back to posting soon. All the best, Juliet

  39. tiypani says:

    tanques para o autor. Eu estava procurando há algum informaiton útil e isso é um grande homem.

  40. Juliet Schor says:

    Gracias. I’m a woman, actually, but many thanks for the praise. Happy new year! Juliet

  41. [...] Juliet B. Schor writes in her new book, Plentitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, about the decline of social capital in the United States during the past few decades… [...]

  42. [...] fall, at the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies on 9/24, from 3 pm-9 pm. Economist Juliet Schor, author of Plentitude, will keynote. To register for the conference, please contact jofrench@bard.edu. There is no charge [...]

  43. [...] http://www.julietschor.org/2010/05/welcome-to-plenitude/ This entry was posted in Books for C2C. Bookmark the permalink. ← The Climate War by Eric Pooley [...]

  44. [...] You’ll be hearing more about Plentitude from me, but as you lounge around waiting, pop over to the blog  . [...]

  45. Rebecca Woodall says:

    Ms Schor,

    I am doing some research on US funding natural disiaters and how we determine what is a good investement in terms of how much we give and to whom. Mainly the recent japanese earthquake and the katrina flooding. Seems to me the US spends more on international soil and not as much in domestic. What is your opnion?

  46. Warren says:

    We are actually reading your book Plenitude as part of our course in Sociciology and I find it very insightful to learn you have a blog up about this. The “materiality paradox” is an interesting concept that we are focused on in our discussions right now as it relates to our own personal lives. I just want to thank you for a very inspiring and eye opening book!

  47. Juliet Schor says:

    Dear Warren, That’s great to hear. What college/university do you attend? Juliet

  48. [...] Read more about Schor's vision for a Plenitude economy on her website. [...]

  49. [...] excellent book, “Plentitude: The New Economics of True Wealth.” You can also read her blog , view her lecture , and read more about her [...]

  50. [...] more about Schor’s vision for a Plenitude economy on her website. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

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