In the burgeoning genre of books focused on building a new and benign world order – a challenge variously known as the “new economy,” “Great Transition,” and the “Great Turning” among other terms) – John Thackara’s new book stands out. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today is low-key and sensible, practically minded and solidly researched. Written in an amiable, personal voice, the book is persuasive and inspirational. I can only say: Chase it down and read it!
It’s a shame that so many brave books that imagine a post-capitalist world surrender to grandiose theorizing and moral exhortation. It’s an occupational hazard in a field that is understandably wants to identify the metaphysical and historical roots of our pathological modern times. But critique is one thing; the creative construction of a new world is another.
That’s why I found Thackara’s book so refreshing. This British design expert, a resident of southwest France, wants to see what the design and operation of an ecologically sustainable future really looks like, close-up. He is also thoughtful enough to provide some depth perspective, following his own motto, “To do things differently, we need to see things differently.”
How to Thrive in the Next Economy seeks to answer the question, “Is there no escape from an economy that devours nature in the name of endless growth?” The short answer is Yes! There is an escape. As Thackara shows us, there are scores of brilliant working examples around the world that demonstrate how to meet our needs in more responsible, fair and enlivening ways.
He takes us by the hand to survey a wide variety of exemplary models-in-progress. We are introduced to scientists and farmers who are discovering how to heal the soil by treating it as a living system. We meet urbanists who are re-thinking the hydrology of cities, moving away from high-entropy engineered solutions like reservoirs and sewers, to smaller, localized solutions like wetlands, rain gardens, ponds and worm colonies. Other bioregionalists are attempting to de-pave cities and bring permaculture, gardens, “pollinator pathways” and informal food systems into cities.