Saturday, September 06, 2014

confessions of a former optimist

I have always been an optimist. Or perhaps I should say I was always an optimist until the last few years. This has little or nothing to do with my personal life experiences. I maintained an optimistic outlook during unemployment, poverty, cancer, divorce, and many other personal trials, and recent years have been kind to my husband and I in many ways. 

Moreover, my optimism  was not based on ignorance of the worlds problems and issues. My parents brought me up to be highly aware of the dire circumstance of poverty, war, brutality, pain and suffering that others in the world suffered. I was brought up to care about and fight for equality, freedom, and opportunity for others. I was a realist optimist. 

I can remember reading Linda Goodman's Sun Signs in high school and she had this very apt description of Aquarius that fit me to a "T": 
"Lots of people like rainbows. Children make wishes on them, artists paint them, dreamers chase them, but the Aquarian is ahead of everybody. He lives on one. What’s more, he’s taken it apart and examined it, piece by piece, color by color, and he still believes in it. It isn’t easy to believe in something after you know what it’s really like, but the Aquarian is essentially a realist, even though his address is tomorrow, with a wild-blue-yonder zip code." 
Goodman, Linda (2011-02-23). Linda Goodman's Sun Signs: Aquarius (Linda Goodman's Sun Signs Set) (Kindle Locations 175-178). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition. 
Later few years later in college I read Yevegeny Yevtushenko's A Precocious Autobiography  and identified strongly with this passage: 
"My optimism which had been all pink, now had all the colours of the spectrum in it, including black, this is what made it valid and genuine." 
I made my career in sociology a discipline focused on understanding the realities of social life; and I focused on topics of inequality (wealth and poverty), economic and political power (its uses and misuses), and environmental problems. I became more and more versed in what was wrong with human societies, and still I retained optimism that if people properly understood the sources of those problems they could struggle together to make a better world. 

But some where in the past decade, perhaps just the past five years I lost my way. I have come to believe that many of the problems the world is facing can not be fixed, at least not in a way that allows human societies to move forward from where we are now. The inequalities have become so huge, the gaps in power so large, and the many of the environmental problems irreversible without immediate, dramatic reversals in energy, transportation, and food policies that I know will not happen because of those overwhelming inequalities and power differences. 

It feels to me on a daily basis as if those in control of the multinational corporations and the worlds' wealth are deliberately driving humanity towards the edge of destruction, because they believe that there is more profit and more power in creating impoverished and powerless masses, and that the accumulation of vast wealth will some how exempt them from the disasters to come....and who knows, enormous wealth provides a lot of cushion against catastrophe so perhaps they are right. Whether they are right or wrong they are acting as if they, and their children and grandchildren will be immune. 

I do not believe humans are headed to extinction - even as we drive many other species to extinction - but I do believe that we are headed to a lot of hunger, disease and death, and the break down of much of modern industrial society.  

I also believe that within that disaster lies the possibility for vibrant, localized, lower tech, sustainable communities to come out from the other side of the disaster - perhaps many decades on the other side. I also believe that there are people around the world who are doing enormously good things to build social capital, make connections, create local food webs, advance new forms of spirituality  and environmental awareness, and to create support networks that may be the tenuous bridges that we will need to reach that sustainable future on the other side of disaster. 

I know some of those people doing good work and dreaming good dreams. Most of them are far away from me and I only have contact with them through Facebook. It is this lack of direct connection that I think has given birth to my despair.  I want to be part of the bridge building, but no longer know how to make the connections.  I no longer feel it in my soul the way I once did. I feel weighted down by the presence of so many whose response to the uncertainty and fear that they feel in their bones is to cling to a mythical past that never existed and demand that nothing change or that changes should be to a more restrictive, narrower, meaner, less inclusive future. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why the Rich Hate Obama

This morning I ran across an article "The Best Worst President Ever" by Mark Morford in SF Gate.  Morford observes a wealthy beneficiary of the economy under Obama proclaim Obama the "worst president ever." Morford then proceeds to give a litany of economic facts that provide ample evidence that this wealthy individual is almost certainly benefiting greatly from the economy during Obama's presidency. In the end Morford just laughs, and shakes his head at the "bizarre lament" of these crazy rich bastards. His only explanation is simple racism - rich white guys can't stand it that a black guy could actually run the country, so they'll simply deny that he has done so. 

I think that Morford and almost all the other defenders of the Obama presidency are missing something truly important, something that the wealthy feel in their bones, even though few of them can allow themselves to recognize it consciously. There has been a seismic shift in this country during the Obama presidency, one that has nothing at all to do with Obama's actions as president, but everything to do with what a black man in office means to American people. It is not what Obama has done, but what Obama has inspired (including fear) that makes him "the worst president ever." 

The seismic shift to which I refer is the cosmic decline in the legitimacy of the existing American social system, in all its economic, political and social dimensions, in the minds of Americans. The fact of an Obama presidency, the presidency of a Harvard educated, progressive black man of mixed racial and cultural heritage is the catalyst that turned the already existing cultural divergence of America into a chasm of Grand Canyon proportions. It is not about what Obama has done or will do, it is all about who he is and what he represents to the various factions in America. 

Obama of course represents quite different things to those on the left and those on the right. For those on the left, Obama's presidency offers hope (yes that "hopey changy thing") that real change and reform can happen. If a black man can get elected in America, than perhaps real, progressive economic reforms are possible too. By raising expectations, Obama's presidency undermines the legitimacy of a Congress stalled in the morass of partisan bickering, and of a corrupt and massively unequal economy.  Decades ago historical research on revolutions suggested that the greatest danger for revolt occurred not when conditions were the worst in a society, but when small improvements gave people hope, but change did not come quickly enough to satisfy those hopes. 

Obama's presidency has done something that nothing before has been able to do: the fact of a black man in the highest office in the land has led masses of ordinary conservatives to question the legitimacy of government and law enforcement. Suddenly "law and order" conservatives are on the side of armed vigilantes protecting a law-breaking rancher (Bundy) in Nevada, who casually aim weapons at local, state and federal law enforcement officials. 

The most class conscious, educated members of the rich are fully aware of the disintegrating legitimacy of capitalism and the vastly unequal distribution of wealth and income in this country. A tiny handful of these economic elite think that it is possible to re-establish legitimacy as was done during the Great Depression by Roosevelt. Warren Buffet speaks openly and often about the need to reform the tax system to address rising inequality. Bill and Melinda Gates focus on pouring their wealth into reforming education with a goal of reducing inequality. Far more common however, is the headlong rush to accumulate more and more, claiming the moral superiority of capitalism (or getting toadying academic economists to do it for them), and blaming Obama for the rising numbers of Americans who seriously question the both  legitimacy of extreme inequality and capitalism. 

Their hatred of Obama is based not on anything that he as actually done to effect inequality, because in point of fact, Obama's actual policies and actions have fueled the growth of wealth and inequality.  Rather it is based on the fact that an Obama presidency has fueled more and more open disaffection with the existing order of things, and shaken the legitimacy of both government and economy. Their hatred is greater because they have more to lose. 


The Truths Hidden in Right Wing Survivalism

On a right wing web page, every other headline screams that Obama is responsible for impending disaster and doom to American society.  But hidden within the polarizing rhetoric is often startlingly accurate analysis of the real sources of the problems and the dangers facing America today: a capitalist economic system that enshrines greed and wanton wealth accumulation over economic and social stability and human needs. 

This short video is typical of the genre aimed at "patriots" and emphasizing individualism and family it provides a surprisingly fact based and astute analysis of coming food shortages around the world and their connection to social, economic and political collapse. 
 http://www.backyardliberty.com/vsl/index60.php

Of course this little video ignores important causal factors such as climate change, and the solution to social disintegration is a laughable attempt to by someone to make money within the capitalist mind set. Real solutions will have to be social, involving people in local communities where cooperation will be key.  But the video shows that many on the right, do have an accurate understanding of the very real fragility of our social and economic systems and recognize that food systems are the lynch pin.  Compare this to the discussion of food insecurity by major progressive environmentalists such as Lester Brown "Full Planet, Empty Plates" , and you see that the core analysis of the problem is the same. 

Friday, June 06, 2014

Zombie America - Installment 5 UPDATED!

America, the zombie nation that ONLY appears to be alive.  

Excellent article about how economic reality on the ground of everyday life for most Americans contradicts the economic fantasies theory of economic and political elites who argue for more tax cuts for "job creators," also known as voodoo "trickle down" economics.

See succinct article in Buzzflash  http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/trickle-down-economics-and-climate-deniers-face-an-insurmountable-challenge-reality
This is not debatable data: it is reality, like seeing rain gushing from the sky as proof that the sun is not shining. You can spin this reality, as The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times - among other pro-Wall Street media - do but you cannot deny the facts of what is occurring. The US has two economies: a soaring stock market and wealth for the plutocracy, and a declining standard of living, lower pay, increasing debt and long-term joblessness for the rest of the United States.
This disparate reality breeds anxiety and fear in the ordinary person, who recognizes the inherent instability of their lives, families and communities, but doesn't fully understand the source of that instability. 

Media messages, from advertising to pundits to pulpits, send a message that nothing is wrong with the basic system of industrial capitalism, it is merely the presence of some out-group - socialists, immigrants (legal and illegal), "takers" (translate: "people different from me"), non-Christians (especially Muslims), and the poor in general - who need to be eliminated, controlled, sent home, or simply disenfranchised so that capitalism can get back to doing what it was designed to do.  The problem however, is that capitalism was always designed to increase capital. It was never designed to create jobs or build communities. 

--
Update: June 2014

An excellent AlterNet article http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty provides links to sound research and statistical data that show that half of all Americans - yes, HALF! - meet the criteria for being "low income;" almost half of American's have zero (zilch) wealth; half of Americans lack the resources to survive even three months without income. 



Monday, April 28, 2014

How Increases in Income Inequality Undermine Social Security

I spent several hours today working on a detailed example for my Inequality class, and thought that I would share it: 

Social Security retirement benefits are one of the most important things that prevents millions of elderly Americans from being poor.  Social security has been one of the most successful and most popular government programs in the past 80 years.
As the baby boom generation ages and reaches retirement age (which began in 2011) and as the size of the younger generation of workers becomes smaller, people begin worrying about the solvency of the social security program. The discussion often pits the interests of young people against the interests of the elderly - totally unnecessarily. 
It turns out that the biggest problem facing Social Security is NOT the disparity between the size of the elderly group and the size of the younger working group, the REAL problem with Social Security has been the increasing disparity in income between low paid workers and higher paid workers.  As wages for MOST workers have stagnated and declined in value while wages for a very tiny (about 10 percent of workers) have increased hugely  this has dramatically reduced the amount of social security taxes that would have been paid into the system.

Here’s how it works.  In 2014 all workers who make any income up to $117,000 must pay social security tax on the full amount of their income.  But a worker that makes $500,000 a year (a many upper middle class executives, bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. do) only pays Social Security taxes on the first $117,000 and pay nothing at all (in Social Security ) on the other $383,000 that they make.  So let’s imagine two different business A and B, where A has low inequality, with higher pay for all workers, and less difference between lowest paid and CEO, and B has high inequality, with lower pay for all workers and large differences between lowest paid and CEO. 

Business A with Low Income Inequality, Ratio of Lowest Paid to Highest Paid is  17:1
Category of worker Number of persons at level Salary Range Average Salary Total Salary Paid by Business Total subject to Social Security Tax Total Social Security Tax Paid
CEO 1 $530,400
-
$530,400
$117,000
$14,508
Upper Management 10 $120,000 to $490,000
$214,000
$2,140,000
$1,170,000
$145,080
All other workers 5500 $31,200* to $115,000
$41,000
$225,500,000
$225,500,000**
$27,962,000
Total Salary Paid
$228,170,400
Total Social Security Taxes Paid
$28,121,588
*lowest hourly wage paid $16.00 an hour times 40 hours per week
**all of this income is subject to Social Security Tax because all workers make less than $117,000.


Business B with HIGH Income Inequality, Ratio of Lowest Paid to Highest Paid is  300:1
Category of worker Number of persons at level Salary Range Average Salary Total Salary Paid by Business Total subject to Social Security Tax Total Social Security Tax Paid
CEO 1 $4,212,000
-
$4,212,000
$117,000
$14,508
CFO, COO 2 $2,210,000 and $3,116,000
-
$5,326,000
$234,000
$29,016
Upper Management 8 $118,000 to $643,000
$302,000
$2,416,000
$936,000
$116,064
All other workers 5500 $14,040* to $100,000
$34,000
$187,000,000
$187,000,000**
$23,188,000
Total Salary Paid
$198,954 ,000
Total Social Security Taxes Paid
$23,347,588
*lowest hourly wage paid $7.20 an hour times 37.5 hours per week.
**all of this income is subject to Social Security Tax because all workers make less than $117,000.

In the first business the total compensation of the top 11 workers is $2,670,400, and the total Social Security Tax paid is $159,588.
In the second business the total compensation of the top 11 workers is $ 11,954,000,but the total Social Security Tax paid is still just $159,588 because only the first $117,000 is taxed.  Because workers paid less than $117,000 are paid less overall (lowest pay of company B is less than half that of Company A), the total Social Security taxes paid are lower.

The pattern found in Company A was typical in the 1960's in the U.S. albeit at lower dollar figures. Today's business pattern is much more like Company B. The result of thousands of businesses holding down income for the majority of workers while increasing the disparity of pay between those at the top and at the bottom, has had the overall impact of reducing the percentage of total salaries/wages that are subject to social security taxes. 

Businesses have multiple motivations to increase inequality in this way, the decrease total salary wage costs and decrease their share of Social Security taxes as well. The top workers are motivated because their additional income is not subject to Social Security taxes, and with the concurrent decline in upper bracket income taxes since the 1970's there is little income tax disincentive for additional income beyond the bottom of the highest bracket. In 2014 the highest income bracket begins at $ 406,751 for an individual and $457,601 for a married couple. So whether one's income is $500,000 or 5,00,000 the tax percentage is the same.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

America's Two Cultures

Back in 1992 when James Davison Hunter published Culture Wars: The Struggle to Control the Family, Art, Education, Law and Politics in America, he was careful to note that America was not really divided into two distinct cultural camps, but rather what he was writing about were culturally extreme minorities (the "orthodox" and the "progressive") at either end of the a continuum in which most Americans fell on a middle ground.

Several excellent pieces of sociological research, as well as personal observations, lead me to think that today's America is far closer to a "culture war" today. There is less middle ground and more polarization. Facebook has been a fertile ground for observing that culture war. Between my husband (also a sociologist) and myself, our combined Facebook circles encompass significant numbers of people on both sides of the culture war. 

One striking example of the differences between the two cultural camps are two quite different apocryphal stories (below) currently circulating on Facebook. Both have been posted by people on my personal Friends list (with well known political and cultural biases) in 2013. The persons circulating these stories appear to believe them to be true stories.  However, a quick search of debunking websites such as TrueorFalse and Snopes make it clear that both stories are considered fiction or hoax.  There is no basis in a fact (no recorded incidents) for the conservative version of the story on the right below. The progressive version of the story on the left below is a variation of a story that has been circulating on the Internet since 1998. The original 1998 version places the incident on a British Airways flight out of Johannesburg and may possibly, but not necessarily, be based in fact. But the current version presented as a contemporary story in the United States is fiction.

Liberal Apocryphal Story
Conservative Apocryphal Story
A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man. Visibly furious, she called the air hostess. "What's the problem, ma?" the hostess asked her "Can't you see?" the lady said - "I was given a seat next to a black man. I can't seat here next to him. You have to change my seat" "Please, calm down, ma" - said the hostess "Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I'm still going to check if we have any." The hostess left and returned some minutes later. "Madam, as I told you, there isn't any empty seat in this class - economy class. But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there isn't any empty seats in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class." And before the woman said anything, the hostess continued "Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class. However, given the circumstances, the commandant thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel sat next to an unpleasant person." And turning to the black man, the hostess said: "Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in the first class..." And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet. SHARE IF YOU ARE AGAINST RACISM A 50-something year old Muslim man arrived at his seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn't want the seat. The seat was next to an elderly white woman reading her Bible. Disgusted, the man said, "I cannot sit here next to this infidel!" then summoned the flight attendant, demanding a new seat. The flight attendant responded, "Let me see if I can find another seat. "After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated "There are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class. "The flight attendant returned, stating "The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, however there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class." Before the irate Muslim man could say anything, the attendant gestured to the elderly woman and said, "Therefore, m'am, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn't want you to sit next to an unpleasant person." Passengers in the seats nearby began to applaud while some gave a standing ovation. I say, can I get an Amen to that!


The two stories share the same structure. As a liberal social scientist I see them as carrying quite different messages.  From my perspective the story on the left decries racism, while the story on the right reinforces negative religious stereotypes.  However, as a sociologist I am also fully aware that the conservative friends would most likely interpret the meaning of the two stories quite differently. Conservative friends would be likely to say that the story on the left reinforces negative racial stereotypes (all elderly white people are racists), while the story on the right decries obvious religious bigotry on the part of Muslims. 

The two cultures in America not only tell different stories, but we interpret each other's stories in very different ways.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Alternatives to "Zombie America"

I was asked to come up with some additional material for the chapter of a textbook that I've been writing. The chapter is for an introductory sociology textbook and concerns the relationship between societies and their environments. This is something of a first in sociology; up until now the environment has been either ignored or given a few sections under some other topic (such as population or social change).
Sociology, unlike it's sister discipline anthropology, has not until recently paid much attention to how the environment affects culture and society.

I was so pessimistic in my last post, that I wanted to provide a little balance, particularly because I found the books I read for this additional material so interesting (list of references at bottom of post).  So here is the additional material written over the past week:
Where does this leave us? On the one hand, as long as our world economies are organized as they currently are failure to grow will have devastating economic and social consequences; on the other hand industrialization and economic growth have brought us to the point where the human ecological footprint has exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth. Are we doomed to either slide into economic recession with increasing unemployment and poverty while we protect the environment, or to prosper economically while we destroy our environment? No, we are not so doomed. The choice between economic growth and environmental sustainability is a false dichotomy. 
A growing number of environmentally aware economists (Daley and Farley 2003, Dietz and O’Neill 2013, Heinberg 2011) point out a crucial flaw in the economic growth versus environmental sustainability choice. That flaw is that environmental problems such as global warming, food and water scarcity, and the depletion of non-renewable resources like oil are fundamental roadblocks to economic growth. If human societies do not address the environmental problems we will have no choice at all, economic growth will grind to a halt because of intrinsic limits imposed by the natural environment. 
This is not a new idea; it was first systematically put forth in the classic The Limits to Growth a research study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists commissioned by the Club of Rome in 1972 (Meadows, Rander and Meadows 2004).  The conclusions of this study have been reinforced by careful analysis of the actual environmental and economic trends of the intervening forty years (Daley and Farley 2003, Dietz and O’Neill 2013, Heinberg 2011, Meadows, Randers and Meadows 2004). If the world’s nations persist in pursuing the goal of economic growth, the result will be both environmental destruction and the failure of economic growth. Once environmental limits bring economic growth to a halt, the economic system would most likely crash in catastrophic fashion (Heinberg 2011). 
This is not necessarily the doomsday scenario it might seem at first. Most people are “pro-” economic growth because they assume that prosperity and economic well-being are dependent upon economic growth. Using detailed social and economic data environmentally savvy economists have demonstrated that economic growth is not necessarily equated with economic prosperity and security, and that the increasing size of economies undermines the prosperity of the average person (Daley and Farley 2003, Dietz and O’Neill 2013, Heinberg 2011). 
Economic growth is a matter of size, of quantity not quality and is generally measured by the expansion of the gross domestic product of a nation (GDP).  Growth is about more but not always about better. GDP increases when we drill and sell more oil, but it also increases when we spend millions of dollars on cleaning up oil spills. If the number of people smoking decreases and sales of cigarettes fall then GDP goes down, while if the number of cancer cases increases and we spend more money as a society treating cancer patients than GDP goes up.
Measures of economic growth also pay no attention to how wealth and income are distributed (Heinberg 2011). Between 1975 and 2012 the Gross Domestic Product of the United States increased nearly nine times (from 1.8 trillion to 15.7 trillion). During that same period the amount of income and wealth inequality increased with the gap between the top wealthiest individuals and everyone else growing substantially. Median wages and household incomes in the United States stagnated and fell – even as corporate profits and gross domestic product rose (Packer 2013). There were other qualitative declines in standards of living in the United States that were not included in measures of economic growth: the percent of the workforce holding part-time and temporary jobs increased, as the percent receiving health care, sick leave, retirement and other benefits declined (Packer 2013). The conclusion: economic growth has not translated into economic prosperity or security for increasing numbers of people both in the United States and elsewhere. 
There is an alternative one that promises both economic prosperity and security and environmental sustainability. The alternative is the steady-state economy which maintains a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population, while providing sufficient resources for the sustenance and satisfaction of people. The goal of a steady-state economy is improving quality of life within ecological limits. 
What would a steady-state economy look like? The first defining characteristic of a steady-state economy is environmental sustainability. There would be strict limits on the use of materials and energy, and on the production of waste materials (Heinberg 2011). Built environments – roads, bridges, housing, factories – could not expand into new land; existing agricultural and natural lands (whether forests or deserts) would be protected from encroachment. Environmental sustainability includes an overall reduction in the scale of economies with a shift from far-flung global supply lines to localized production and exchange of both food and manufactured goods (Dietz and O’Neill 2013). Stabilization of world population numbers would be an essential element of environmental sustainability (Assadourian and Prugh 2013). In a steady-state economy humans create sustainable environments in which natural ecosystems and human development are blended to design healthy communities, economies, and ecosystems over the long term. 
The second defining characteristic of a steady-state economy is fair and equitable distribution of resources: food, housing, employment, health care, transportation, leisure time, educational opportunity and economic security (Daley and Farley 2003). Everyone would have access to meaningful jobs and full employment would be the norm (Dietz and O’Neill 2013). Fair distribution of resources would apply within and across societies and across generations (McDonough and Braungart 2013). The result is a world in which everyone is prosperous and extremes of wealth and poverty are muted. 
A steady-state economy is one in which the quality of life is measurably enhanced. People are healthier with fewer of the diseases of poverty (cholera, dysentery) and those of affluence (obesity, heart disease). They work less, have more leisure with time for creativity and hobbies, time to spend with family and engaged in their local community (Heinberg 2011, Dietz and O’Neill 2013). 
How is a steady-state economy achieved? The title of this section of your text suggests that the alternative to “growth” is “restraint,” but restraint is not how one completely transforms the world’s economies to avoid environmental and economic disaster. The project of creating steady-state, environmentally sustainable before environmental problems such as global warming and resource depletion become irreversible requires a mobilization effort similar to the one that helped the United States ready for war in 1942 (Assadourian and Prugh 2013). Major transformation of economic, political and social institutions and a substantive shift in individual and societal values is required. 
There will remain a role for markets in a steady-state economy, but markets must be balanced by the state and civil society (Dietz and O’Neill). The current ruler for market success is profit alone, which must be replaced by a triple metric in which people and the planet are placed in line ahead of profit (McDonough and Braungart 2013). New priorities that focus on long term outcomes measured in terms of sustainability, equity, employment and quality of life, rather than simply profit will have to be set for economies, and only governments can do that (Daley and Farley 2003, Heinberg 2011). But governments can only set new priorities if the people who elect and support them develop new, sustainable rather than growth oriented values. 
How do you, the student, meet this challenge?  The first thing is education. Understand why growth is problematic not only for a sustainable environment, but also for a sustainable society and human quality of life. Learn what it takes for a sustainable environment and a steady-state economy.  A good place to start is the books such as those cited in this section including: Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources by Robert Dietz and Daniel W. O’Neill (2013); The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg (2011); State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? organized by Erik Assadourian and Tom Prugh for World Watch (2013); and The UpCycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2013). 
Finally it is important to use your knowledge by becoming involved with local and national organizations that promote change. Every geographic locality has a variety of local groups that concern themselves with sustainable development. The numbers are so great and the types of organizations so varied that one cannot even begin to list them.  You can begin by searching on the internet for both local and national groups using search terms like: sustainable communities, Transition, permaculture, renewable energy, and appropriate technology (Heinberg 2011). You can also talk to others around you—fellow students, instructors, neighbors, local government leaders—to find people who share concerns about the environment and the need for sustainable development.

References:
Assadourian, Erik and Tom Prugh, Project Directors. 2013. State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? Washington, DC: Island Press. 
Daley, Herman and Joshua Farley. 2003. Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications. Washington, DC: Island Press. 
Dietz, Robert and Daniel W. O’Neill. 2013. Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 
Heinberg, Richard. 2011. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers. 
McDonough, William and Michael Braungart. 2013. The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance. New York, NY: North Point Press, Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
Meadows, Donella, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows. 2004. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 
Packer, George., 2013. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. London, England: Farrar, Staus and Giroux.