Eco-Economy by Brown

Lester R. Brown. Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. Paperback, xviii + 333.

Lester Brown is the former founder-president of the Worldwatch Institute and the founder and now board chairman of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. He received, among other awards, the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his enormous contribution to a greener world.

In this book, which is the first publication of Brown’s new Earth Policy Institute, he examines how an environmentally responsible economy can still, at this late hour, turn the tide in our favor. As he argues, economy has thus far only exploited the environment and has led us into the present cul-de-sac. He sees positive signs of a turn-about in economy, which can not only salvage the environment but even help restore it for future generations. Yet, he also admits that since founding the Worldwatch Institute in 1974, environmental devastation has only increased, and this despite some 240 international environmental treaties negotiated since the 1950s.

He rightly points to the lack of a common vision among environmentalists as the major flaw in the equation, which makes constructive action slow and ineffective. Hence the gap between what is being done for the environment and what ought to be done continues to widen.

This book has the ambitious goal of furnishing such a universal vision. Brown sees economy, which has thus far been the main culprit behind the ongoing environmental debacle, as the pivot for a concerted effort to halt the downhill slide and seriously begin the phase of environmental reconstruction. If economy fails to become sustainable, it will inevitably put the last nail in Nature’s coffin.

He observes that it is already too late for many individual environmental problems. However, he feels, it is not too late to prevent economic decline, providing we act quickly to make economy sustainable, which in practice means to honor and restore the environment accordingly.

As part of his eco-economy proposal, Brown suggests a restructuring of the tax system, which would lower income taxes and raise taxes on environmentally destructive activities.

Whether speedy corrective action can occur is largely a matter of public re-education, as Brown acknowledges in the concluding chapter. This key topic really deserves its own study, and in the three years since the publication of the present work no such study has been published, as far as I know.

This brilliant book clearly maps out the major issues confronting us and articulates the fundamental principles of a global metanoía. In conjunction with some more recent books, such as Edwards’Sustainability Revolution and Dobson’s The Troublemaker’s Teaparty, Brown’s latest work gives us plenty to think about and suggests practical pathways of constructive action to rescue our environment, our economy, and ourselves from oblivion.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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