The following is a book review by Michael Swack, Professor of Economics at the University of New Hampshire, where he has appointments at the Carsey School of Public Policy and at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. The opinions in this review are his own.
Part science, part philosophy, part history–Roy Morrison’s book, Sustainability Sutra, convinces us that sustainability actually does mean something—and illustrates that point with very specific examples as well as broad arguments on why we need to build a sustainable economy and society. The book very cleverly engages both our heads and our hearts—so we understand Morrison’s arguments and solutions at different levels. When I first leafed through this book before reading it (doesn’t everybody do that?) I thought to myself, well, this looks like it’s going to be all over the place—mixing numbers, stories, and philosophies. But, in fact, the various pieces flow together seamlessly and make Morrison’s arguments more compelling. Those arguments show that we are at a crucial point in our movement from an industrial, environmentally unsustainable society to, one hopes, a society in which economic growth results in ecological improvement. But this isn’t just a wish, Morrison is very specific about how this can be done, and how it has already begun. He starts by defining an ecological civilization. He tells us that: A quantitative definition of an ecological civilization is a society maintaining a balance between the insults of human action on the ecosphere and the regeneration of natural capital. A formal definition of an ecological civilization is a society maintaining human life in a dynamic and sustainable equilibrium with a flourishing living world, which depends on our ability to make new social choices to change the way we live. Social justice and fairness is fundamental for an ecological future. An ecological civilization cannot be built in a world with a wealthy high-consuming minority and an impoverished majority. He then goes on to tell us that using available technology, market signals, smart government policy, and strong community institutions, we can promote that transformation. Morrison’s examples both domestic and international locations- from Indonesia to Newark, NJ to China are all well-explained and documented. This is a thoughtful, important and provocative book, well worth reading.
The book is available on Amazon.