Wednesday 21 March 2018

Review: Flaming Vesuvius Edited by Richard Douthwaite Argosy


This book is a series of 27 essays about what the mostly Irish-based authors see as the end of economic growth.

Published by the Tipperary-based Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, 'Fleeing Vesuvius' claims to be an optimistic book but the fundamental message is downbeat; that energy will become far more expensive and that economic growth will slow as a result.

The authors believe this will have all sorts of ramifications, such as canals and rivers replacing roads for the transport of heavy goods.

A typical example would be Bruce Darrell's contribution on "the nutritional-resilience approach to food security" which concludes that the public's health will worsen as we are unable to import food from across the planet.

The only way to avoid this would be to add minerals to the soil here before it is too late and the soil is exhausted, Mr Darrell, a Canadian architect living in Cloughjordan, contends.


Another, gloomier essay by Dmitry Orlov argues that the global economy is doomed and that "anyone who recognises this should spend whatever money they have engaging with their neighbours and the land".

Perhaps the best contribution is the most conventional. It comes from Dan Sullivan, who looks at why Pittsburgh real estate never crashes and concludes that site value tax is the reason for Pittsburgh's low foreclosure rates.

Of course, anybody who has been in Pittsburgh will hope that their home town does not end up like this travesty of the American Dream.

Nevertheless, the article is stimulating and offers the sort of outside solutions that could be implemented here.

This is not an easy book and is sometimes poorly written. Most of the contributors are academics but there is no doubting that the contributors are passionate and knowledgeable.


Where else is one likely to come across an article by an Irish Fullbright scholar who is completing a PhD on soil carbon or a dozen other quirkily qualified contributors?

This is an important book. The message is a simple one; we should not expect different results if we keep doing business in the same ways.

As the Green Party implodes here, it is easy to forget that economically successful countries, such as Sweden and Germany, have placed the green agenda at the heart of their economies for a generation. That philosophy has allowed these nations to thrive while we struggle.

The jaded electorate may well be about to give the Greens the boot but the party's fundamental ideas still deserve to be treated with respect. This book gives an interesting cross-section of green views, written by people with a good understanding of the problems we face and the country we live in.

thomas molloy

Irish Independent

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