Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Review: Depletion and Abundance

I share a phone booth with this week's guest blogger, the Green Phone Booth that is. Hannah, aka The Purloined Letter, aka The Green Raven, has offered to share her abundant thoughts on Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance.

Leading the Way

"If we can take one message from Hurricane Katrina, it is that our government is probably not going to lead," writes Sharon Astyk in her new book Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front. "It wasn't the federal government that was first on the scene in Hurricane Katrina. It was regular people with boats, or at least courage, who got out there and rescued their neighbors and people they'd never seen and would never seen again. It was ordinary people who tended one another's hurts. It was ordinary people who sought solutions. It was ordinary people who led the way, and the government eventually followed."

Astyk's book is a reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference in the world during times of crisis. In New Orleans in 2005, it was Hurricane Katrina. Now we face a global financial crisis, climate chaos, war, and energy depletion (peak oil). People are struggling to hold on to their homes, to pay for their groceries, to know what to do next. As Astyk writes, "Now it is the time for ordinary people like us to get out our boats again and lead the way."

If you are like me, this book will make you rethink your assumptions about population, about the separation of public and private, about the global impact of creating local economies. As Green Bean said in her recent review, Depletion and Abundance is both troubling and reassuring. It will make you have moments of panic and it will also make you commit to creating a just and meaningful life.

I finished the book with a feeling not only of hope, but also with a feeling of radical responsibility. What I love best about Astyk's book is her unshakable commitment to her inner ethical compass. Usually, I am very resistant to authors telling me to do what they think is right for the world. But Astyk combines belief in universal morals (like truly committing our lives to taking care of elderly parents and children, connecting with our communities, and helping strangers in need) with acceptance and respect for diversity. Instead of feeling like she is preaching at me, I feel like she is inspiring me to try to live up to my ideals and attempt to be my highest self.

I highly recommend this book. I'm thinking about buying a second copy just so I can make all my friends read it and yet keep a copy on my shelf, too, for any moment when I need to be reminded what power we have and how we must use it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Recommended: For medium and dark green readers.


Donna said...

That is so true that we can't depend on government to fix everything (although they certainly could have done better with Katrina!), but that most of the good in the world is done by individuals. I might have to check out this book. Thanks for the great review.

Kale for Sale said...

For some reason I've been trying to avoid this book but your review wants me to go out and get the book today. I love the line about radical responsibility. It's such a contrast to constant consumerism. And I can always use a good dose of inspiration. Thank you.

Going Crunchy said...

I do have to giggle.

I watched something last week that talked about how Brad Pitt has done more for New Orleans then the government has done.

Be we celebrity or regular folks, I think those that get get in there and do it make all the difference.

Good review! Shan

Green Bean said...

Hannah, I'm really glad you shared this review with us. I enjoyed Sharon's book. It was a quick and enjoyable read. I did give it only 3 out of 5 stars but I will say that I agree with everything you have to say. I think it is a very helpful book and probably would have recommended it more highly if I could just get back Sharon's vision of how our society will look in the next decade or two. I'm not saying she's wrong. Indeed, our current economic situation jives with everything Sharon's said. I just find it hard to believe that things will get as bad as quickly. And, maybe there's a part of me that doesn't want to believe, that wants to believe in our resilience, our determination as a culture.

Glad to be able to post both reviews here.

Look for a giveaway of this book this month.

Hannah said...

"I just find it hard to believe that things will get as bad as quickly. And, maybe there's a part of me that doesn't want to believe, that wants to believe in our resilience, our determination as a culture," writes Green Bean.

I hope you are right that things do not get as bad as quickly--and I would add that I think what Sharon is talking about is exactly what shows our resilience and determination as a culture. I think the world she envisions shows it more than our current culture does, in fact.

Hope everybody enjoys the book!