Standards of Living

Floyd County kids having fun planting potatoes

Our national mindset seems to be, even with efforts at replacing fossil fuels with alternative energies and getting better gas mileage in our cars and other such incremental improvements in efficiency that the ultimate result will be to resume spending and growing like we always have on the upswing from a soured economy.

That simply cannot happen. We’ve run up against the limits to growth-and-spend and the carbon economy. We can still have a satisfactory standard of living in future generations, but those standards can’t be the measures of a successful economy our parents understood. We can have what we need, but our wants need a make-over and our accounting sheets will need to reflect the true costs of the things we eat, wear, drive, and use, from raw materials to waste stream.

Juliet Schor’s book on this coming way of living in relationship to each other and the earth is called Plenitude: ” a condition of being complete, having sufficient measure of a good or needed thing.”

Some brief excerpts from Schor’s book web site:

Our usual way back to growth – a debt-financed consumer boom – is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford. Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead it’s an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure.

And as Schor observes, Plenitude is already emerging. In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers’ lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity and community.

Hear the author at 11 am on the Diane Rhem Show on Thursday June 3.

Read more about the potato planting and Farm-to-school in Floyd County in the New River Current piece about the event.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks, Fred! This is the way forward. So far, so few ….”get it.” But, over time, acknowledgement will have to come. I hope it won’t take many more disasters like the Gulf of Mexico to reveal the fallacies of a consumer-based society to the unschooled, and then convince the regulators to speak up to greed. I’m not convinced we’re “there” yet….not by a long shot. Much misery probably needs to unfold.

    Thanks so much for this reference. (Plentitude)


  2. I know that there are climate change sceptics aplenty, the recent convention funded by the oil companies is evidence of that, but the way I see it, if we can create ‘green jobs’ that take people back to their roots and put them back in touch with the essentials then they must be healthier for the human soul as well as the planet.

    Even if it weren’t a major contributor to global warming (and most people accept that it is) oil, black gold, has been the cause of too many wars, both between the armies West and East and between pollution and the planet.

    But the answer is not to exchange oil fields for acres of bio-fuels
    I believe the answer is to change our whole way of living
    Small, local, sustainable, selfless…

    Which is, it seems, the message of your blog

  3. Hey Fred, Your link to the potato planting was instead to a piece about the artists’ market. I want to know about the farm to school events.

  4. Hello Fred, Oh the Diane Rhem show. I love that show. I cannot find her program here in Central Kentucky. I could in the other places I lived. This book could perhaps be one of many that suggest our possibilities as a nation to become sustainable. I will try and get it through the library. Everything we need to do to be sustainable is already present in our culture. It requires a strong mindset change to recognize it. Many folks are living that type of life presently. It’s a step by step process to get to that point where we will not be toxic to this planet. It will be interesting to read how she comes at the process. I’ll give it a read with my usual critiquing eye. — barbara

  5. I didn’t find the story about kids planting potatoes, but I am receiving offers (yes plural) to purchase our Floyd farmland for vegetable growing. Anyone know what’s driving this demand, or had similar offers?