We are living beyond our means, running up debts both economic and ecological, consuming the planet’s resources at rates not remotely sustainable. But it’s hard to imagine a different way. How can we live without cheap goods and easy credit? How can we consume without consuming the systems that support life? How can we live well and live within our means? In Treading Softly, Thomas Princen helps us imagine an alternative. We need, he says, a new normal, an ecological order that is actually economical with resources, that embraces limits, that sees sustainable living not as a “lifestyle” but as a long-term connection to fresh, free-flowing water, fertile soil, and healthy food.
The goal would be to live well by living well within the capacities of our resources. Princen doesn’t offer a quick fix—there’s no list of easy ways to save the planet to hang on the refrigerator. He gives us instead a positive, realistic sense of the possible, with an abundance of examples, concepts, and tools for imagining, then realizing, how to live within our biophysical means.
About the Author
Thomas Princen explores ecological and economic sustainability at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order and The Logic of Sufficiency (both published by the MIT Press).
Table of Contents
- Treading Softly
- Treading Softly
- Paths to Ecological Order
- Thomas Princen
- The MIT Press
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- London, England
- © 2010
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
- For information about special quantity discounts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- This book was set in Sabon by MIT Press. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
- Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Princen, Thomas, 1951–
- Treading softly : paths to ecological order / Thomas Princen.
- p. cm.
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
- ISBN 978-0-262-01417-5 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Human ecology—Economic aspects. 2. Nature—Effect of human beings on.
- 3. Consumption (Economics)—Environmental aspects. 4. Sustainable development. 5. Environmental policy. I. Title.
- GF41.P73 2010
- 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
- Preface vii
- Acknowledgments xiii
- 1 Within Our Means 1
- I The Disordered Order 19
- 2 From House to Home :
- A Parable 21
- 3 To the Heart of the Beast 29
- 4 Only When . . . 49
- II A Home Economy 59
- 5 Principles 61
- 6 The Elm Stand 79
- 7 Beyond the Consumer Economy 91
- III Tools for an Ecological Order 103
- 8 It Isn’t Easy 105
- 9 Work, Workers, and Working :
- Toward an Economy That Works 119
- 10 Speaking of the Environment :
- Two Worlds, Two Languages 135
- 11 To Sustainabilize :
- The Adaptive Strategy of World- views 157
- 12 The New Normal 179
- Notes 197
- Index 207
—Maurice J. Cohen, New Jersey Institute of Technology