Just The Right Amount

In an essay on water in his classic book Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey poses a question: Is there a shortage of water in the desert? No, he says, there’s no shortage of water in the desert. There’s just the right amount.

For a long time, the wisdom in such an observation could be ignored. A great nation had to be built, an industrial economy created, foes of democracy defeated. Resources–timber, minerals, oil, water, soil–were virtually unlimited, and waste sinks–where the residues and runoff and combustion gases went–an alien concept.

That time is over. What was perfectly normal in the past–harvesting a resource until it was depleted, then moving on–is fast becoming abnormal. What were once strictly local environmental problems now quickly bump up against global constraints. Yesterday’s living well is today’s living well beyond our means.

— excerpt from the preface to Thomas Princen’s Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order.

Bought this book recently. It’s got mixed reviews, but we’ll see when I actually dig in.