Tell the truth – have you ever tossed plastic into the trash can instead of the recycling bin because you don’t think it matters? Do you feel powerless to make any significant difference in the battle to save the planet? Have you given up hope that people will take responsibility for their impact on the environment?
Frances Moore Lappe, the legendary author of Diet for a Small Planet, has a new book that reexamines the same old pessimistic pronouncements and draws stunning and hopeful new conclusions. In EcoMind, Lappe concentrates on Seven Thought Traps–widely held assumptions about the environment and our limits—and reveals why they are outdated, overstated, or simply wrong. You’ve probably heard these assumptions, and may have expressed them yourself:
Lappe disagrees with every one of those statements and questions their validity with a new set of facts. Her optimistic approach bypasses the narrow-focus view that has come to be accepted by so many and instead offers us the ‘eco-mind’ understanding:
- The only answer is no-growth economies
- Market demand drives endless exploitation of the earth
- We must sacrifice the good life in order to live within the earth’s limits
- Humans are too selfish to make the required changes for planetary salvation
- People must be coerced into doing the right thing to save the planet
- Humans are too disconnected from nature to be real environmentalists
- It’s too late.
“… as we rethink the premises underlying this worldview, we move to a different place altogether –a place where we experience ourselves and our species embedded in nature… With an eco-mind, we move from ‘fixing something’ outside ourselves to re-aligning our relationships within our ecological home.”
EcoMind is not an idealistic list of Things You Can Do. We’ve certainly seen enough of those and most of us have already taken the recommended steps–reduce, reuse, recycle. This book is Lappe’s fresh take on the givens and carries the reader along for a clear-sighted tour of the reality that stands outside the commonly accepted views.
Tackling the no-growth scenario, Lappe points out that many, perhaps most economies are thriving–small business, small farms, local economies, for example, are making quite the comeback. “A dollar spent in a locally owned business,” Lappe explains, “can generate three times more local economic activity than a dollar paid to a corporate chain.”
As for the gloomiest of the scenarios–that it’s too late–Lappe agrees to some extent that “it is too late to prevent massive change in the climate… But it is not too late for life.” In her musings on this Thought Trap, she sums up the entire book by reminding us that “what makes us miserable isn’t a big challenge. It’s feeling futile, alone, confused, discounted–in a word, powerless.”
EcoMind counters that notion that we are powerless with a host of stirring and reasonable alternatives, beginning with a list of human traits that we can count on: cooperation, empathy, fairness, efficacy, meaning, and imagination and creativity. Negativity is not, as some believe, a sign of sophistication; hope is not naïve and foolish. “Hope,” writes Lappe, “ …is a stance toward life that we can choose… or not.”
Hope alone doesn’t accomplish much, but EcoMind carries through by providing not only the impetus to view our situation from a new angle but also concrete examples of how people are making a difference and how each of us can gain a renewed sense of purpose and reasonable optimism. There has long been a cry for change but a failure to define exactly what and how that change can be effected. EcoMind fills the void and brings a clear-sighted and rational strategy to revive us.