What is normal? The world has seen so much conflict and change over the past decade that normal may no longer exist. Can we ever get back to the old status quo or is it time to create a new one?
That's the idea behind David Wann's new book. The author of “Affluenza” and “Simple Prosperity” calls “The New Normal” (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99) "an agenda for responsible living," but it may be a bit more than that.
Wann believes it is time for a paradigm shift, a systemic change that will involve more than just individuals switching to CFL bulbs but an entire transformation of culture and society — something that he says will be necessary to save us from pending environmental and ecological disaster.
In his introduction to the book, Wann proposes 12 "new normal paradigm principles" to affect how we live, build, eat, prioritize public capital and interact with nature. None of them is an "easy" fix, and all would require heavy lifting on the part of individuals, communities, corporations and governments as a whole.
How big a change are we talking about? Just look at the title to chapter two: "Why not a nonprofit economy?" Instead of the current system of profit-driven capitalism, Wann suggests a wide range of dramatic changes that build on capitalism but task it with creating public good. He suggests holding businesses accountable for their environmental and social impacts; measuring success not by wealth but by health; investing in local banks or credit unions that support community development funds; and planting gardens and eating in restaurants that support local growers.
Throughout this chapter — and the entire book — Wann lays out what he calls "new normal agenda points." With each point (there are 34 of them), he gives us a road map for change, listing steps that consumers and communities can take, detailing the heavy lifting required by corporations and governments and tapping expert sources to back up his new paradigm.
It's not all about profits. Wann is concerned with the importance of food in our lives, the impact of the world's shrinking biodiversity, the health of the ecosystem (I love his phrase, "If it ain't fixable, don't break it"), the ways we live (in cities versus spread-out communities), and much more.
At first glance, Wann's suggestions might seem like the dreaded scourge conservatives call "socialism," but they are much more than that. He wants a world that works in a healthy way, and he wants society to judge itself by the health of its people and its planet, not the size of its profits and the scale of its growth.
For all of Wann's ideas to truly become "the new normal," it would involve a near-complete transformation of society and the world, but that doesn't mean that these ideas are pie-in-the-sky dreams. Even if achieving the total new paradigm is unlikely (if not impossible), maybe we can still get there — bit by bit. Wann suggests hundreds of little actions throughout this book that you can consider to change your life, your impact on the world, and your impact on society. There are actions for individuals, families, communities, government leaders and business people, so you can take part of this book into just about every part of your life. Some actions are small; some are big. None is inconsequential.
“The New Normal” is a far-reaching, forward-thinking manifesto that lays it all on the line. It might be a dream, but it's a dream better than the nightmare we're currently facing.