Reviews

Publishers Weekly, Nonfiction Book Reviews: 2/15/2010

Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth

Juliet B. Schor. Penguin Press, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59420-254-4

Schor (Born to Buy) introduces her concept of “plenitude” as a way forward after the recent “shattering” of global capitalism and continued rise in CO2 emissions. Plenitude is a commitment to enjoying–not exploiting–nature’s richness, to envisioning environmental, economic, and psychological health as braided and capable of growing symbiotically and more securely than the “business as usual” practices that imploded in 2008. Schor pleads for avoiding “planetary ecocide”: even though the polar ice caps are shrinking and 38% of the 45,000 species studied by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature are under threat of extinction, the West–particularly Americans–continue to create waste and gobble up resources at unsustainable rates (in 2006, the U.S. emission of CO2 was 19.7 metric tons per capita, compared to 1.3 in India). Fortunately, the interest in alternative energy, recycling, and clean nanotechnologies is increasing, and Schor encourages readers to match it by breaking out of a work hard/spend hard cycle, thereby improving both the environment and quality of life. It might be utopian, but it’s also fresh, persuasive, and passionately argued, speaking to the individual and the collective. (May)

TIME MAGAZINE REVIEW   Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth By Juliet B. Schor Penguin Press; 258 pages

Even before the financial meltdown, there were signs that the way we do business needed a drastic reassessment. Climate change and other ecological crises have long demonstrated the dangers of ignoring environmental costs in traditional accounting. In Plenitude, sociologist and economist Juliet B. Schor argues we’ve been focused on the wrong kind of green, greedily brushing the natural world aside to the detriment of not just the planet but also our personal well-being. You don’t have to be a tree hugger to appreciate the benefits of working fewer hours and increasing self-reliance. Schor seizes on the current climate to advocate for an alternative to business as usual, proposing a sustainable path that, despite traversing familiar terrain like energy conservation, is not about sacrifice. She insists that “we don’t need to be less materialist … but more so,” provided we understand which materials–natural resources–are truly valuable. Reduce, reuse, recycle, but also slow down, strengthen relationships and get more out of life.

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