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xiii This book rests on the following premise: our economy is the outcome of the decisions we make and the actions we take. We might be told that there’s an underlying logic, even a set of natural principles, that direct how economies operate, but most of us can see that the decisions and actions of governments and corporations have a lot to do with how economies shape up. Encouraged by the idea that we can build the economies we live in, individuals and communities across the globe are taking economic matters into their own hands to help create worlds that are socially and environmentally just. Take Back the Economy is inspired by these efforts. When we explore the ways that people are taking back the economy to make it work for societies and environments, we find they are thinking deeply about shared concerns and experimenting with ways of responding . These concerns are as follows: •  What do we really need to live healthy lives both materially and psychically? How do we take other people and the planet into account when determining what’s necessary for a healthy life? How do we survive well? •  What do we do with what is left over after we’ve met our survival needs? How do we make decisions about this excess? How do we distribute surplus? •  What types of relationships do we have with the people and environments that enable us to survive well? How much do we know about those who live in distant places and provide the inputs that we use to meet our needs? How do we encounter others as we seek to survive well? Take Back the Economy Why Now? xiv   take back the economy •  What materials and energy do we use up in the process of surviving well? What do we consume? •  How do we maintain, restore, and replenish the gifts of nature and intellect that all humans rely on? How do we care for our commons? •  How do we store and use our surplus and savings so that people and the planet are supported and sustained? How do we invest for the future? The message we are getting loud and clear right now is that we’ve not paid sufficient attention to these concerns. In fact, we’ve downright ignored them. Even though we live on a finite planet, we have plundered the earth’s nonrenewable energy resources and overused and destroyed renewable ones. Even though we live in a society with others, we’ve focused on individual desires and preferences, and a few have grown massively rich at the expense of many others. When we think about the scale of the problems facing our planet home, it is daunting. It seems as if the damage we’ve wrought and the ways of thinking that underpin our profligate economies are insurmountable. We can find evidence for this all around us. But everywhere we turn, we can also find individuals and communities innovating with ways of thinking and acting to address the challenges of our times. If we are to take back the economy for people and the environment , each of us can join in this effort to help address concerns about survival, surplus, encounter, consumption, commons, and futures. Take Back the Economy is for individuals and communities who want their decisions and their commitments to each other and the earth to shape the economies we live in. The book is not a pie-in-the-sky program for revolution, nor is it a stepby -step guide to reforming what we have. It is a simple but radical set of thinking tools for people who want to start where they are to take back their economies—in countries rich or poor, in neighborhoods or in nations , as groups or as individuals. k Consciously and realistically build for oneself, and one’s community and nation, sources of hope. Thomas Princen, Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order xv   Take back the economy Thinking Big Imagine planet Earth as the astronauts see it—a wonderful blue-andwhite sphere floating in the firmament—and, on closer inspection, an oasis of green-and-brown land masses and blue water bodies. This is our life-support system, fed by unlimited solar power, in which inputs and outputs circulate and change form and energy is expended and conserved, all without the totality changing its mass. It is one big garden , if you like, where we toil—farming the soil, producing food and shelter and all manner...


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