Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Books Guiding an Urgent Journey

Here are a few books I have found very worthwhile of late....

The Clashing Worlds of Economics and Faith, by James Halteman.
This book by a veteran professor of economics and Mennonite leader outlines a practical vision of Christian economic lifestyle today, and argues that the best that the world's economic systems offer is none too good.

Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts, by Reta Halteman Finger.
This work of historical investigation and biblical interpretation by a noted feminist scholar applies social science insights to uncover the robust lifestyle of economic sharing that the author believes early Christian communities practiced, as well as the socially and historically conditioned biases that she believes have prevented much past scholarship from recognizing this.

Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, by Lester R. Brown.
This book, published in 2001, details the ecological perils we are facing and outlines practical steps to take. I plan to order his 2009 book Plan B 4.0 which covers the same ground in the light of updated research. One chapter subheading in the 2009 work, I think, says it so well: "Our Global Ponzi Economy." Brown is wonderfully specific in his ecological claims and remedies. If you want to take issue, take issue with the specifics. Or perhaps you will, like me, find the facts and arguments Brown presents convincing, realize that the dream of unrestrained economic expansion as usual is neither desirable nor possible, and resolve to join hands with others in forging a more responsible path.

These matters are so urgent, I believe we need all hands on deck: Everybody, on your block and mine, should be reading, debating, discussing, and working to implement practical changes to build a sustainable and livable future. "Everybody" includes persons of pro-life convictions, who will be unavoidably disturbed by Brown's advocacy of abortion. However, while Brown himself might consider the point non-negotiable, it is by no means the centerpiece of his agenda, and the otherwise strong case he makes for the urgent necessity of ethically reducing human population should not be thrown out on this account.

Herman Daly, Robin Hahnel, Michael Albert, and Bryant L. Myers are among other authors who have been part of this conversation for me. I have just begun to dip into Vandana Shiva, whom I think I will find rewarding, though my initial impression is that her work may be aimed more at rallying troops than winning converts. What can one put in the hands of conservatives and libertarians who are captivated by the promise and compelling internal logic of infinite capitalist expansion, to open their eyes to the larger limiting ecological parameters? Herman Daly and Lester Brown effectively engage the categories of traditional neoclassical economics, and make a case that is hard to refute. At least they worked with me. And, difficult as it may be, I think generating genuine dialog with the unconvinced is the only way we will ever get past current impasses and move the project of saving the planet forward.

What readings have helped guide your journey of late?

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