What We’re Reading (and Watching!) – December, 2011

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This is part of an ongoing series highlighting what our members are currently reading (and watching!) in the Post Growth and sustainability realms.

Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom by Bell Hooks

Drawing from decades of life and teaching that centers social justice as it relates to race, class, and gender, bell hooks has compiled a series of thirty two ‘teachings’ she deems relevant for any teacher who sees the classroom as a place where democracy and critical thinking can be cultivated.  But this is not a how-to guide for teachers.  It is a series of accessibly written, deeply personal, and highly relevant reflections and commentaries.  If read with an open and curious mind, these pieces can provoke further reflection and re-engagement with taken-for-granted assumptions and practices.  While the intended audience is clearly teachers, the book holds relevance for anyone interested in critically engaging with truth, knowledge, and power. – Janet Newbury

The High Price of Materialism by the Center for a New American Dream

This 5 minute animated video looks at how the culture of consumerism undermines our wellbeing. It presents problems that emerge from excess materialism and offers ideas for a healthier, fairer and more sustainable way of life.

The clip cites a figure of $150 billion which is spent each year ’embedding’ consumer messages across a plethora of attention space – TV shows, web sites and public bathrooms. Imagine if a small proportion of that was spent on highlighting the benefits of consuming less, or putting our energy into flourishing the non-material aspects of our lives.

Key messages of this video are that the high price of materialism is not just the consumption of stuff, it results in us organising our very lives around consumption; that materialism shapes values which diminish social and and individual wellbeing; and that focusing on building a life that which expresses intrinsic values can help ‘immunise’ people to the cult of materialism. – Sharon Ede

New Scientist

I’m enjoying reading New Scientist at the moment. This weekly magazine presents the latest science in bite-sized, easy to read pieces.

Whilst it has plenty to offer in the way of astrophysics, I’m always impressed at how often it features science that is directly relevant to those of us interested in post growth issues. In the October 22 2011 issue alone, I learnt about why drug users are more likely to reach for the needle during economic downturns, that there is empirical evidence for a small number of corporations having disproportionate global power, and what it is that we know, and do not know, about climate change. On August 27 2011, I read about empirical evidence linking climate patterns and civil conflict, how racial inequality may be holding back both black scientists and biomedical science in the U.S., and how evolutionary biology links pro-sociality with thriving communities.

A good understanding of multiple scientific disciplines can be an important tool for addressing post growth issues that are sometimes very complex. It also keeps us post growthers on our toes with our own belief systems – for example, despite the common claim that the modern ‘dissolution’ of communities has increased crime rates, a recent article from archaeology science suggested that humanity is far less violent then it used to be.

Magazines like New Scientist can help us better understand why we make the decisions that we do. More importantly, they can provide us with the tools of knowledge that we need to reconfigure the ways in which we live. – Jane Addison


Published by Donnie Maclurcan

Donnie is a co-founder of the Post Growth Institute and an Affiliate Professor of Social Science at Southern Oregon University. He is presently writing two books: How on Earth: Our future is not for profit and The Not-for-Profit Handbook.

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