BOOK REVIEW: BEYOND SUSTAINABILITY
Highly recommended. Beyond Sustainability – Authentic Living at a Time of Climate Crisis – offers an insightful exploration of the changes we need to make at the personal and collective levels. It is part of Moon Books’ Earth Spirit series, and will be released on 28 April 2023.
Author Nimue Brown says that, “as a Druid, I’ve spent my adult life trying to live lightly. There is a great deal to learn about what is possible, and what’s effective, and this is always a work in progress and never as good as I want it to be. I feel very strongly about the need for real change and quietly rage about greenwashing and the ridiculousness of ‘offsetting’. Harm cannot be offset”.
The book is economical with words and rich in content. Its introduction reflects that “humans are increasingly a miserable species, caught in ways of behaving that give us very little and will cost us the earth”. Brown argues that it doesn’t have to be this way and in seven chapters she sketches out pathways to an alternative.
Chapter 1 – What Makes an Authentic Life?- advocates ‘conscious living’, in which we resist the pressure to “to construct our identities out of consuming products”. Instead, we are challenged to discover what inspires and uplifts us, and to build meaningful relationships, with creative and productive communities emancipated from the trance of consumerism.
Chapter 2 – Authenticity and the Unsustainable – explores the narratives that limit and distract us, the stresses of high speed living, the hunger for possessions and ‘experiences’, and the rise of debt culture.
Chapter 3 – Slow Life Sustainability – suggests that ‘life in the slow lane is gentler’. It includes sections on slow fashion, slow transport, slow food, and slow shopping.
Chapter 4 – Wealth in Relationships – looks at ways in which we can support and appreciate each other, and has specific sections on spiritual community, community action, privilege/prejudice and the power of sharing.
Chapter 5 – Creativity for All – emphasises that “being able to imagine is an essential skill for moving towards more sustainable ways of life”. We are nourished by our own creativity and each others.
Chapter 6 – Privilege, Poverty, Inclusion – looks at bigger picture political change, starting with the thought that “sustainability cannot be just a middle class hobby”. There are a lot of things you can’t do if you are poor; shaming and blaming poor people is cruel and useless. Redistribution of wealth is therefore an essential step towards greener living.
Chapter 7 – Political Changes – discusses specific measures such as right of repair, universal basic income, a four day working week, radical changes to agriculture, reducing waste, ‘stop making money out of money’, and not relying simply on changes in technology.
Beyond Sustainability is an informed and distinctive contribution to an increasingly important conversation. It deserves to be widely read and discussed. I suggest that readers of this blog make a note or add it to their lists.
(1) Nimue Brown Beyond Sustainability: Authentic Living at a Time of Climate Crisis Winchester, UK & Washington, USA, 2023 (Part of the Earth Spirit series)