People often ask me: “So what set you on your present course of operating a sustainable business, growing most of your own food organically, working from home, and powering your entire farm and business with renewable energy?” People ask me about that definitive moment where it became obvious that I needed to live and work a different way, a better way that didn’t involve never-ending growth, consumption, and earn-and-spend.
There was no such moment, or crisis, that transformed my life of power suits, lattes, or gotta-have-it-all-now mindset. Instead, my sustainable journey (which very much continues to this day as an evolving journey) resulted from a growing understanding about the issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, both through personal experience and by learning of these changes from other organizations or individuals.
One such organization that serves as a compass for my endeavors is the Worldwatch Institute, a nonprofit organization that produces the authoritative State of the World book series as well as numerous other books and resources to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs. Each year, a new State of the World book is not only jam-packed with interdisciplinary research and analysis that a non-scientific mind (like mine) could comprehend, but organized in such a way to make it both practical and powerful for anyone searching for ways to express a vision for how to live on a planet without destroying it or exploiting its inhabitants.
Each year, the State of the World book series focuses on a particular theme which might address energy, community, food and agriculture, population, health, trade policies and natural resource use, just to name a few. For 2008, their State of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy provides both a timely analysis of how our “free trade” global economy has gone astray and insights into the powerful movements afoot, including localization, a triple bottom line approach to business, microfinance, and the low-carbon economy.
“In response to the grim realities of climate change, resource depletion, collapsing ecosystems, economic vulnerability, and other converging crisis of the twenty-first century, a consensus is emerging among scientists, governments, and civil society about the need for a rapid but manageable transition to an economic system where progress is measured by improvements in well-being rather than by expansion of the scale and scope of market economic activity,” writes John Talberth in his chapter “A New Bottom Line for Progress.” I only can hope that a copy of State of the World 2008 is on President Obama’s desk since it’s unlikely that Americans can consume our way out of the present financial crisis. Even if we did, Talberth argues that such consumption will not likely lead to furthering our happiness, but rather to further degradation of the planet.
State of the World is one of those books that helped me change course and better comprehend what is happening to the planet. State of the World 1992 — which I read in preparation for my self-imposed sabbatical and exit from corporate America — served as my launch pad for discovering what was happening to the planet and what I could do about it. Life is not a spectator sport for those who want to champion change. The State of the World books provide the global insights from leading thinkers, academics, professionals and analysts who dive into the social, environmental and governmental aspects of how our world functions, revealing ways in which we could, once again, thrive more sustainably.
The State of the World books are not End of the World books; they’re revealing and sobering at times, but they provide numerous pathways to achieve greater sustainability within our culture, society, economy and community.
Not surprisingly, their latest release, State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World, is devoted to the technological and institutional developments most likely to help humanity weather the storm of global warming. Most scientists agree that we have only a few years to reverse the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and help avoid abrupt and catastrophic climate change. As the world governmental leaders come together to negotiate a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009, State of the World: Into a Warming World can guide our understanding of how a warming planet threatens everyone and everything on Earth — and what we could do about it.
“A sustainable world is not an impoverished world but one that is prosperous in different ways,” writes Tim Jackson in the chapter “The challenges of Sustainable Lifestyles” from the 2008 State of the World. “The challenge for the twenty-first century is to create that world.”
So, how are you creating that sustainable world?
At Inn Serendipity, my family and I are creating it with renewable energy, local food, and living below our means.