Review: Transforming the Dream – Ecologism and the Shaping of an Alternative American Vision

6 Star Special, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Change & Innovation, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Education (Universities), Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future, Intelligence (Public), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Public Administration, Science & Politics of Science, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Charles Bednar

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Synthesis, Starting Point for Anyone Who Wishes to Think Holistically, July 4, 2015

The author taught me most of what I retain in the way of political science fundamentals during our time together at Muhlenberg College, where he was former Chair of the Department of Political Science and an Associate Dean. We had not kept in touch since I left Muhlenberg in 1974, but in 2014 I reached out to him and bought this book immediately upon learning of its existence.

Published in 2003 by the State University of New York Press, this book was evidently not marketed at all, and little noted. That is a sad commentary on our times, because I find that the author has distilled multiple literatures into one coherent presentation, augmented by an original model that tells a vital story beyond Ecological Economics into Ecological Political Economy (in essence, politics), into Ecological Ethics and Ecological Pedagogy, two topics rarely covered by others.

My 2068 non-fiction reviews here at Amazon, all accessible across the 98 categories in which I read at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog (Reviews page), totally support the RADICAL conclusion of the author, to wit, that there are no changes we can make — in relation to climate change, income equality, militarism, drugs, whatever — that will make a difference if we allow the prevailing techno-industrial-financial paradigm to persist.

We have a SYSTEMIC problem in which all of our institutions — academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, non-government/non-profit — ACCEPT the big lie of “unlimited growth” as the foundation for achieving universal prosperity, while IGNORING the reality that the externalization of true cost to the public and future generations is leading to the extinction of humanity and the desecration of the Earth.

Before continuing my review I want to itemize ten of the many books the author draws on to emphasize the importance that this SYNTHESIS holds for the reader who does not have the time or money to do all the reading that the author or I have chosen to do. In the case of Herman Daly, long overdue for a Nobel, the author has read all of his books, as is the case also with Herbert Marcuse.

For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future
American Democracy in Peril: Eight Challenges to America’s Future, 7th Edition
Ecological Democracy
Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future
Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision
A Sand County Almanac (Outdoor Essays & Reflections)
One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, 2nd Edition
Ethics for a Small Planet: New Horizons on Population, Consumption, and Ecology (S U N Y Series in Religious Studies) (Suny Series, Religious Studies)
Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Studies in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy)
Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment

I am reminded of Will and Ariel Durant’s conclusion in their capstone work, Lessons of History, to wit, morality is a priceless strategic asset. Long ago I concluded that ethics are how one passes on the lessons of history that favor community and sustainability, and more recently I have concluded that every government, without exception and including the Nordics (the best of the worst) lacks ethics. They fail to honor the tri-fecta of intelligent beings, holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering. Between financial and political corruption as documented by among others Matt Taibbi in Griftopia, intellectual dishonesty as characteristic of the academy, the media, and the think tanks (whorehouses, every one of them), and a citizenry all too willing to be eat poison, drink poison, and having their ability to think displaced by moronic entertainment suitable only as a backdrop to drinking one self into a stupor, Western society has become reductionist garbage.

At root this book is about the reality that that there is no substitute for natural capital — a concept covered by a number of other books including those by Paul Hawken, Dieter Helm, Peter Kareiva, and Dorothy Maxwell and most recently, one of my favorites, STOP THIEF! by Peter Linebaugh — combined with the finding that education and ethics are the only means by which to reverse centuries of stellar accomplishments on the edges that have hollowed out the center.

There are extraordinary insights throughout the book, I will mention just a few:

01 It is insane to separate the teaching of politics and economics. Political economy is “root” for any society. To allow political science to be taught without recourse to holistic analytics and true cost economics is irresponsible; to allow economics to be taught without recourse to holistic analytics and true cost economics is criminal.

02 Social capital is an integral part of natural capital — here I am adding my own interpretative comments, to wit, human intelligence and human innovation and human energy are the one unlimited resource we have, and we have buried that resource under a flawed assumption that technology (which comes with huge costs we do not factor in) is a substitute for human enterprise.

03 Globalization undermines the local identity and decision-making in closeness to nature, the bio-regional intelligence with integrity that is essential to making the most of our limited natural resources. Elinor Ostrom received a Nobel prize for making this point in Governing the Commons. The best governance is self-governance at the local level, in touch with the facts on the ground and able to enforce, day to day, with persistent eyes on.

04 Transformation will occur on our present course (even with lip service from the Pope, the UN, and G-7) — we have to literally shut down the techno-industrial-financial paradigm that governs every aspect of our lives — our policies, products, services, and behaviors — and substitute a new ecologism paradigm that demands an educated ethical public — this requires in turn moral awakening, a political revolution, and constant citizen engagement far beyond mere voting.

The most original portion of the book is the latter half, and particularly the discussion of what needs to change in education and in ethics. This book is easily qualified to be a primer for freshmen entering a liberal arts program that still has integrity (too few of these now that “life experience” is code for take the money and screw the student).

QUOTE (129): The problem of education, from an ecologistic perspective, is that it continues to reproduce, explicitly or implicitly, the taken-for-granted assumptions of the dominant techno-industrial paradigm.

Quite right. The fact that in the USA today we have between 23% and 40% unemployment (the first from ShadowStats, the second from a Congressional Research Service report, “An Overview of the Employment-Population Ratio”) and between 20 million and 30 million recent college graduates living at home again, unable to find work, is an indictment of our present corrupt government and a confirmation of the common sense of this excellent work.

The chapter on Ecological Ethics and the Conclusion focus deeply on moral agency, holistic judgment, and the breakdown of the connections between citizens, nature, and the institutions that humanity has allowed to take on a life of their own, corrupt to the bone and controlled by the 1% instead of the 99%.

The chapter on Ecological Pedagogy synthesizes among many other contributions those of David Orr on six principles, and outlines so many good ideas on restoring the relevance of education to sustainable society that one could surmise that any college or university president who fails to read this book is derelict in their duty — separately I have reviewed numerous books from Derek Bok and others on the commercialization (prostitution) of higher education, this is the one book to read if you are an educational leader with intentions toward doing good.

As with all my six-star recommendations (ten percent of my reading), I find the Notes and the Index and the Bibliography essential elements worthy of study in detail. This is a master work by one of the few people I have ever met who is able to integrate — and communicate — the Holy Trinity of group politics, true cost economics, and citizen ethics & education.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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