Post Growth Books & Films

Post Growth Institute
Mar 29 · Unlisted
  1. I AM (documentary) directed by Tom Shadyac

In “I AM”, Tom Shadyac, director of such comedy films as Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty, has created a documentary that communicates some of the most important concepts of our times in a light-hearted, graceful way. The film takes us on two parallel journeys. One is Tom’s personal journey from a life of Hollywood glamour to one of voluntary simplicity. This leads him to seek out a better understanding of the human journey, at large, by asking two essential questions, “What’s wrong with the world?” and “What can we do about it?”

In Tom’s quest to seek out the answers, he has conversations with some of the leading thinkers and doers of our time, including Desmond Tutu, David Suzuki, Lynne McTaggart, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Quinn and Elisabet Sahtouris. These conversations, though they cover a wide array of topics, all come back to one essential point: humanity’s main underlying problem is that we believe we are separate, when, in fact, we are all tightly connected to each other and to all the living systems in which we live. This fact is explored from a variety of angles, including biology, physics, history, and cultural narratives.

Another important point that the film explores in-depth is that of human nature. Tom and friends delve into human nature; how our culture tends to interpret it (i.e.- human nature is greedy and aggressive) and how it really is. In doing so, they don’t dismiss the competitiveness in human nature, which is important, but they expand on what important roles compassion, empathy and cooperation have played in our evolution and continue to play in our world today.

Alongside the discussion of human nature and connection, both of which are vital aspects of the paradigm shift to post growth futures, I was thoroughly impressed with the way in which Tom’s narration and conversations with others weaved together a beautiful story. This story is told in such a touching, yet playful way that I think it’s one of the film’s most important aspects; the storytelling, itself. It engages the viewer on a very personal level and, thus, is extremely effective at communicating its message; that love and connection are real and are at the roots of the shift in consciousness that is currently taking place. — Jen

2. The Golden Spruce — by John Vaillant

The Golden Spruce takes place on the Canadian coastal islands of Haida Gwaii, simultaneously featuring a mutant Sitka Spruce — two hundred years old, with golden needles — and a logger-turned-environmental activist who took it upon himself to cut the magnificent tree down.

This true story brilliantly weaves together so many seemingly disparate realities: initial contact between Europeans and the archipelago’s Haida people as well as the relations among Haida and other First Nations that preceded this contact, the economic and political aspects of the coast’s globally-reaching logging industry, the complex relationship between mental illness and social marginalization, and even the roles geographical and biological realities play on human behavior and societal development.

Valliant refuses to simplify the complexities at play, and brings the reader to a place where keen awareness of the interplays among past, present, and future can be viscerally experienced. — Janet

3. The New Revelations: A Conversation with God — by Neale Donald Walsch

This is an incredible read; perhaps most so for those who haven’t read Walsch’s previous books in the ‘conversation’ series. What I particularly love about Walsch’s work — in documenting his ‘conversations with God’ — is that it would speak to me irrespective of whether I had formal, informal or atheistic responses to notions of a higher power.

The premise of the book is that, in order to enable the behavioural changes needed to ensure human flourishing, humans need to reassess a number of fundamental beliefs about themselves and ‘God’ (including the notion of each being separate). Of these beliefs, I find the outlining of ‘five fallacies’ most poignant to the post growth journey: 1. Human beings are separate from each other; 2. There is not enough of what human beings need to be happy; 3. To get the stuff of which there is not enough, human beings must compete with each other; 4. Some human beings are better than other human beings; 5. It is appropriate for human beings to resolve severe differences created by all the other fallacies by killing each other.

The insights are sufficiently detailed and reiterated (at times exhaustingly so), with little gems such as: if we are selfish, how about expanding our definition of the ‘self’? And: “expressed with love, anger is the discharge of disharmony, not the creator of it”. One particular insight has proven influential in my post-growth work: the reframing from ‘right and wrong’ to ‘what’s working (functional) and not working (dysfunctional)’. Although I sense there remains value-laden judgment in what I determine functional or not, I have found this framing more useful for initially engaging those of differing views in discussions about futures we are collectively working to enable. — Donnie

4. In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore

A delightfully simple and inspiring read about how worldwide movements are challenging the cult of speed. Carl Honore sprinkles in a good mix of examples, evidence, anecdote and honesty to cover a broad range of topics. From Italy’s better-known ‘slow food’ movement, to the less well-known ‘Sloth clubs’ of Japan and obscure practices like ‘Superslow weightlifting’ in North America, Honore takes us on a whirlwind tour of worldwide activity.

I was expecting a greater critique of the fast economy; perhaps via exploration of ‘slow money’, for example. Instead, Honore commonly includes characters who return to their high-paced corporate environments all Zen from their latest Vipassana retreat, slow dining experience or tantric sex workshop.

This aside, the book is rich with evidence that, on so many levels, slow can indeed be beautiful. — Donnie

5. The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter by Fritjof Capra

The Web of Life takes the reader step-by-step through the human journey from the centuries-old mode of mechanistic, deductive, linear thinking to the still emerging mode of holistic, non-linear, systems thinking.

Capra, a physicist, explains scientific theories and ideas in a way that non-scientists can understand. The Web of Life tells the story of how and why scientists from a variety of different fields discovered concepts integral to systems theory, such as emergence, self-organization, interdependence, order and disorder, and how different systems theories came to be. Towards the end, he describes the synthesis of diverse systems theories into a single theory of living systems.

Covering everything from cellular biology to quantum physics to the study of consciousness, the reader will come to understand just how comprehensive systems thinking is… and how important. Capra’s The Web of Life illustrates how systems thinking gives us a new way of seeing our world, analyzing the challenges we face and finding holistic solutions. — Jen

6. This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement

The Occupy Movement (and the 99%) has made quite an impact in the way the general populace sees itself in relation to the global economic world. Spurred by a group in the “belly of the beast,” New York’s Wall Street, this grassroots, “horizontal” activism is rooted in participatory, consensus-based democracy and founded around inclusion, acceptance, solidarity and love.

The book was put together by my favorite periodical, Yes! Magazine, and their editor Sarah van Gelder. It is a collection of first-hand accounts from the beginning of the occupation of Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park) to the greater developments that spread the movement worldwide, as well as articles providing ideas for changing the issues raised by the revolution Occupy has started.

At 96 pages this is a quick read, but a very inspiring one! I had chills reading about the “peoples mic,” the police stand-offs and the moments of diverse solidarity that this group organized. I wish I had been there from the start, but it is certainly inspiring to read the words of those who were there. Royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Occupy Wall Street movement. — Joshua

7. Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom by Bell Hooks

Drawing from decades of life and teaching that centers social justice as it relates to race, class, and gender, bell hooks has compiled a series of thirty two ‘teachings’ she deems relevant for any teacher who sees the classroom as a place where democracy and critical thinking can be cultivated. But this is not a how-to guide for teachers. It is a series of accessibly written, deeply personal, and highly relevant reflections and commentaries. If read with an open and curious mind, these pieces can provoke further reflection and re-engagement with taken-for-granted assumptions and practices. While the intended audience is clearly teachers, the book holds relevance for anyone interested in critically engaging with truth, knowledge, and power. — Janet Newbury

8. The High Price of Materialism by the Center for a New American Dream

This 5 minute animated video looks at how the culture of consumerism undermines our wellbeing. It presents problems that emerge from excess materialism and offers ideas for a healthier, fairer and more sustainable way of life.

The clip cites a figure of $150 billion which is spent each year ‘embedding’ consumer messages across a plethora of attention space — TV shows, web sites and public bathrooms. Imagine if a small proportion of that was spent on highlighting the benefits of consuming less, or putting our energy into flourishing the non-material aspects of our lives.

Key messages of this video are that the high price of materialism is not just the consumption of stuff, it results in us organising our very lives around consumption; that materialism shapes values which diminish social and and individual wellbeing; and that focusing on building a life that which expresses intrinsic values can help ‘immunise’ people to the cult of materialism. — Sharon Ede

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