Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review - Treading Lightly: The Joy of Conservation, Moderation, and Simple Living

I recently finished reading Treading Lightly: The Joy of Conservation, Moderation, and Simple Living. I had considered picking the book up several times in the past, but always decided against it for some reason or another. Several weeks ago, however, we were shopping at the Good Foods Market in Lexington when I noticed the book was on a shelf of marked down items. I decided to pick up a copy, and am very happy with the decision.

Treading Lightly is written by David A Anderson, who is an Economics Professor at Centre College in Danville, KY. To be honest, the book is somewhat difficult to summarize, as the author covers several different topics, even dedicating two chapters to passages written by his parents, who he clearly takes a great deal of inspiration from.

Topics in this book include sections on greed, moderation, plastic, Wal-mart, morality, actions, and uncertainty, as well as many others. While no single topic is discussed in depth, they all tie back into the central theme of voluntary simple living.

One area in which I believe this book excels is presenting the ideas in a way that may be, tolerated, if not accepted, by the mainstream. It seems that far too often the ideas of simple living, conservation, and environmental consciousness are viewed negatively by society due to the passion with which their proponents speak about them. The Three Ground Rules included at the beginning of the book, however, show from the start that the author's approach at spreading awareness is very different.

"Three Ground Rules
 (1) No preaching. This book is not written to say "you must." It is about information, ideas, inspiration, and saying "you can."
(2) No calls to visit painful extremes. The message here is that pleasure can accompany progress, and that indulgences are appropriate if the true benefit exceed the true costs.
(3) No feigned superiority. Personally, I do plenty of things wrong and some things right. I cherish information on how to do things better but have no delusions that I do things best of that I am doing all that I can..." 
 -David A. Anderson, Ph.D. - Treading Lightling: The Joy of Conservation, Moderation, and Simple Living
I also appreciate the fact that this book is written from the perspective of an economist, who has the knowledge and experience necessary to understand the potential economic impact of the things he suggests. I feel that too often the message of simple living is written off as unnecessary, at best, and harmful, at worst, when it is believed that the messenger has no understanding of the economic impacts of the message. While I'm sure that there are going to be people who disagree with the message presented in this book, and who question the economics of the proposed ideas, I believe it is likely that the message will be more likely to receive a fair hearing by a wider range of readers, due to the author's credentials.

I can't say that I have a favorite passage, or that any one topic covered in the book particularly jumps out at me. While various pieces of information were presented that I had previously been unaware of, the topics themselves were ones I was already fairly familiar with. When people such as myself read the book, it could very easily be described as "preaching to the choir". I do feel, however, there the material is capable of at least challenging the ideas that some people hold, if not outright changing them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the concepts of simple living, conservation, environmentalism, or who is interested in entertaining a different perspective on the topics. I wish that everyone would read this book. In fact, it is one of the few books I've ever read, that I would genuinely consider giving as a gift, just to help spread the message. I'm actually loaning my copy to a friend tomorrow. Unfortunately, the book isn't likely to change her mind about anything, as she already shares many of my views. I suppose, however, that sharing the message with someone, even if if he/she already agrees with the message, is still sharing the message.

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