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Book Review: Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society by Adres R. Edwards

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The title Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society (2010) by Andres R. Edwards is very purposefully selected. In response to the great and necessary changes that Edwards sees in our collective future he chooses to describe that future as one of thrive-ability rather than one of sustainability. Sustainability, he points out, conjures up images of sacrifice and doing without in order to, at least, maintain the planet and, at best, to mitigate our culpability in relationship with it. Thriveability, on the other hand, is a state of abundance and success; an intertwining of human society with the natural world to their mutual benefit. This shift in mindset, Edwards hopes, will help us see the possibilities and to remain positive in our efforts in the face of such an uphill climb.

This book is a collection of initiatives from all sectors of society and all geographic regions that share the common goal of moving us towards a future that respects the natural world, promotes social justice, and increases the level of respect with which we treat one another and our “Earth Island.” Edwards begins by exploring practices of traditional societies — such as Tibetan nomads, the Kogi of Colombia, and Inuits — and how those methods have been or could be adapted for use on either a larger scale or in additional locations. He then guides us through successful examples of localism, greening commerce, regenerative design, and saving ecosystems. We are then shown possibilities for how to navigate the alteration of these systems and options for reaching the tipping point for change. Edwards closes by discussing thriveability and how we can attain it in our own lives and work to bring it to our communities.

While well-written, Thriving Beyond Sustainability ultimately reads like an encyclopedia and may have benefited from being organized as such. Reading it as a narrative work is a bit laborious and the “take action” sections at the end of each chapter are too general to be of any real use to the reader. Inspiration is where this book excels. Reading page after page of real-world examples of how people saw problems in their communities and then came up with creative and workable solutions to them is awe-inspiring. It is made very clear that there is much work to be done, but with our many hands and our collective wisdom, success is not outside our reach.

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