Trying to Market Poverty

An announcement in the AZ Republic yesterday:

Best-selling author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on
global warming, will be the featured speaker at a roundtable discussion
on sustainability Tuesday afternoon at the Burton Barr Central Library...

In his latest book, McKibben argues that accelerated cycles of economic
expansion have brought the world to the brink of environmental
disaster.

Instead, he suggests that we should be creating smaller, more sustainable local economies. 

I have never fully understood the word "sustainability," but in this context, doesn't it mean "poorer"?  It strikes me that McKibben is trying to sell poverty, or at least advocating that everyone voluntarily become poorer.  He is successful with middle-class soccer moms at the library only to the extent that he hides this fact and calls poverty something else  -- in this case "smaller, more sustainable local economies."

By the way, does jetting from city to city across the country to sell his book make him a sustainability expert?  If he believes what he says, why doesn't he just sell his book within a 50-mile radius of his home?

Sustainability is always for thee and not for me.

  • dave smith

    His biggest mistake is claiming that economies are "created."

  • http://comuse.blogspot.com Allen

    But the whole "buy local" thing, as we've seen in many poor countries, doesn't preclude the populace from clear cutting forests for their own fuel or ruining habit for species. So how does this help?

  • http://vitalaccuratethinking.blogspot.com/2008/03/sustainability-is-for-not-for-me.html JimVAT

    It really boils down to "do what I say, not what I do."

  • Dan

    Whenever people talk about local sustainability, their thought process is something like:

    These apples came from Washington State? That's a couple thousand miles away! How stupid! I can grow apples in my backyard. This is clearly a waste of resources and fuel to truck the apples in. We can certainly grow our own apples here for cheaper and save the environment in the process.

    I would be shocked if there was anything more complex at play here.

  • http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/global-warming-01.html Greg Decker

    He's a link to some of McKibbin's colleagues at Middlebury who have a thing or two to say about his climate change theories. Enjoy.

    http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/global-warming-01.html

  • http://www.tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    Yes, sustainability tends to mean poorer.

    Or, more accurately, it means putting a non-economic driver into economic decisions.

    Linking this stuff to global warming is, of course, the modern fad. Nothing like backing up your silly economic theories with junk science.

  • Common Reader

    One of the reasons soccer moms like it is it's a way to get around feminist insistence that they stick their kids in daycares and commute to an office park every day, without being explicitly anti-feminist.

  • Marcus

    I agree with you on this one. He is marketing poverty.

    If he were to put his money where his mouth is, through out the country he would have local publishers print his book and sell it in their respective the local economies.

    There's a reason he's not done so. It would be enormously inefficient.

  • Max Lybbert

    Sustainable also means "static." It's a very bad idea. If your neighborhood doesn't allow microchip factories, does that mean nobody is allowed to own a computer? Or is it OK to ship in Japanese parts and put things together?

    What about car factories? What about electricity? Do the people buying this book really want a coal fired plant in their backyard? Next to the landfill for only local trash?

    People really need to think things through before they start opening their mouths.

  • Damon Gentry

    A few years ago, a college professor was explaining the concept of 'sustainability' to a business class. She said that a given region, like the Pacific Northwest, should be capable of producing all goods and services that the regional market needs, without the need to import goods from far away lands (like oranges from Florida and oil from Venezuela). I asked her about the market for diamonds. We don't have any diamond mines in the Pacific Northwest. She said that the market could 'adapt' and use synthetically produced diamonds or cubic zirconium.

    In other words, let's have a centrally planned economy. Only this time, it will be much better than the last big one we had because we have a new word for it: sustainability.

  • ruralcounsel

    Here in Vermont, he's a self-styled "expert on climate change" too. Kind of a pompous blowhard who conveniently thinks he knows what's best for every one else. Never have seen his actual credentials or CV; he doesn't emphasize them ... probably an english major.

    One wonders not only about his dedication to his own principles when marketing his book, but in other aspects of his life ... wanna bet he writes his stuff on a computer manufactured predominantly overseas? Drives a fancy hybrid car (clearly not made in Vermont!).

    Middlebury College has made a big deal about its "carbon footprint" ... which you have to wonder about when you see all the expensive luxery SUV's and such in the student and faculty parking lots, and all the fancy new buildings going up on campus (made with imported Italian marble when some of America's finest marble quarries are in the state of Vermont!)

    Environmentalists in the sense of Al Gore ... "do as I say, not as I do".

  • Marcus

    "If he were to put his money where his mouth is, through out the country he would have local publishers print his book and sell it in their respective the local economies."

    Actually, thinking about this, isn't this what national newspapers do?

  • Max Lybbert

    /* A few years ago, a college professor was explaining the concept of 'sustainability' to a business class. She said that a given region, like the Pacific Northwest, should be capable of producing all goods and services that the regional market needs, without the need to import goods from far away lands (like oranges from Florida and oil from Venezuela). I asked her about the market for diamonds. We don't have any diamond mines in the Pacific Northwest. She said that the market could 'adapt' and use synthetically produced diamonds or cubic zirconium.
    */

    Good call! Thinking about your comment some I realized there's an energy crisis in the making. Only oil-rich states would be allowed any gasoline, and only if they also footed the bill for their own refineries. Under such a brain-dead plan, Texas would have oil to spare while California would have to resort to horse and buggies.

    But the best part (to me) is that corn ethanol would only be available in Nebraska, and biodiesel would be hard to come by. What's not to like about that?

  • MJ

    "By the way, does jetting from city to city across the country to sell his book make him a sustainability expert?"

    Oh, don't worry about that. I'm sure he's bought carbon offsets to negate the impact of his travel.