How to Thrive in the Next Economy – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow's World Today
by John Thackara
First published by Thames & Hudson, August 2015
192 pages, Hardback, 23.40 x 15.60 cm
ISBN 9780500518083

HowToThriveInTheNextEconA visionary yet practical guide to building a more sustainable future, by one of the leading voices of the environmental movement today. Marvelling at the power of small actions to transform the bigger picture, Thackara believes that a great transition is under way. It’s the end of one civilization – but the birth of another

Is there no escape from an economy that devours nature in the name of endless growth? John Thackara’s answer is a rousing ‘yes, there is!’ Drawing on a lifetime of travel in search of real-world alternatives that work, he describes in this book how communities the world over are creating a replacement economy from the ground up.

Are there practical solutions to the many global challenges – climate change, poverty, insufficient healthcare – that threaten our way of life? Author John Thackara has spent a lifetime roving the globe in search of design that serves human needs. In this clear-eyed but ultimately optimistic book, he argues that, in our eagerness to find big technological solutions, we have all too often ignored the astonishing creativity generated when people work together and in harmony with the world around them.

Each chapter is devoted to the creative ways people in diverse contexts tackle timeless needs: restoring the land, sharing water, making homes, journeying, growing food, designing clothes, caring for each other. From Bali to Brazil, as well as Delhi, London, and California, Thackara writes of soil restorers and river keepers, seed savers and de-pavers, cloud commuters and e-bike couriers, care farmers, food system curators, watershed stewards, citizen foresters, money designers and more.

Drawing on an inspiring range of examples, from a temple-led water management system in Bali that dates back hundreds of years to an innovative e-bike collective in Vienna, the author shows that below the radar of the mainstream media there are global communities creating a replacement economy – one that nurtures the earth and its inhabitants rather than jeopardizing its future – from the ground up. Each chapter is devoted to a concern all humans share – land and water management, housing, what we eat, what we wear, our health, how and why we travel – and demonstrates that it is possible to live a rich and fulfilling life based on stewardship rather than exploitation of the natural environment.

Read together, these encounters add up to a joyful new story about what an economy is actually for. In place of an obsession with stuff, money and endless growth, this book describes social practices that cherish all-of-life, not just human life.

“How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow's World Today” is a most interesting book with lots of examples of positive changes already afoot of the next, the new, economy and of the new society. It is a good guide to understanding that we are not alone in our endeavors as often we feel rather alone in what we do in our small efforts to change the world for a better one. But, hey, we are not alone and if we but all knew that we existed and found a way of sharing ideas and cooperating things indeed would change.

However, what is missing are the true grassroots projects, the small ones, and happenings, including the Russian dacha system and especially that of the Familienlandsitz Movement based on the Anastasia books; plus others. But then again it is not really possible to list everything that is happening in a book unless one intends to create a large volume that no one is going to really read.

Government is not going to give us the changes that we need to bring about the new society that is needed, we must do it ourselves and create the framework that can take over when the old is dismantled.

On the other hand this is one of the few books only that tells me that I am no delusional when I say, for instance, that renewables are not going to cut it as far as the growth economy and the way we do things presently are concerned. We need a serious reevaluation of how we do things if we want to keep the lights on and when we have to – as we will – rely on renewables only for our electricity needs we best learn to reduce our consumption now.

The author must be commended for his diligence in putting together #the gathered information as to the moves afoot with regards to creating the new economy and new society which must be brought forth out of the ruins of the old. And if you do not realize that the old one is dead, both economy and society, or at least dying, then I am not sure what Planet you are living on.

The perpetual growth economy and society of today where only money, possessions and ego count are both not sustainable; they never have been, in fact, sustainable and that is why our Planet is in such a dire straight that it is in and I am not just talking about carbon emissions, the only thing that everyone seems to be talking about almost exclusively. There is general pollution and it would be better to consider them all rather than just CO2, and then there is loss of species and loss of habitat and even loss of soil.

But, back to the book...

John Thackara is a writer and event producer who has spent a lifetime searching for live examples of what a sustainable future can be like. He writes about these stories at his blog, Doors of Perception, and organizes festivals that bring the project leaders he has met together. His ten previous books include Design After Modernism: Beyond the Object and In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World.

A definite 5 out of 5.

© 2015