Thriving Beyond sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society

by Andrés R. Edwards, New Society Publishers, 2010

Reviews and Endorsements

From sustainability to resilience is the theme of Andres Edwards's new book . . . it is an inventory of grounded hope, practical inspiration, and achievable visions . . . exactly the kind of thinking, work, and doing that will bring civilization to safe harbor.

-- David W. Orr, Author, Down to the Wire

Andrés Edwards has given us a comprehensive, up-to-date, and highly inspiring guide to the pioneering initiatives and practices of individuals, organizations, and communities from around the world who strive to create a future that is ecologically sustainable and socially just. With countless lively examples, the author shows how impressive progress is being made along many different paths, which are about to coalesce into a powerful force for change. The book takes into account the overwhelming scientific evidence of the systemic interconnectedness of the world's major problems, as well as the ecological literacy of time-honored indigenous wisdom. It is thoroughly researched, deeply contemplated, and yet eminently practical. I warmly recommend it to anyone concerned about the future of human civilization.

-- Fritjof Capra, Author, The Web of Life and The Hidden Connections

Edwards covers a breathtaking swath of world-changing stories, frameworks and tools that are essential knowledge for the sustainability advocate. You can't help but feel optimistic after reading this book.

-- Adam Werbach, Global CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi S

Thriving Beyond Sustainability is simply a must-read. It offers a concise, insightful and deeply thoughtful overview of the most hopeful and important emergent trends and ideas driving the global sustainability movement. You will also find an eminently readable book that has shelf life. Edwards is sophisticated, and his nuanced analysis and discernment could not be more timely as green goes mainstream and everyone wants to know: What do we do?

-- Kenny Ausubel, Co-CEO and Founder of Bioneers

Andrés Edwards is a walking database of information on efforts to create sustainable societies, and his enthusiasm for the promise of sustainability is infectious. Read Thriving Beyond Sustainability and your belief in the prospects for human survival--no, human "thriveability"--will brighten dramatically!

-- Gary Gardner, Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute

Peppered with examples, Thriving Beyond Sustainability presents a delectable feast of people, communities, companies, and countries thriving by reducing energy and water use, waste, and cost."

-- David Blockstein, Senior Scientist National Council for Science and the Environment

For those of you who have given up, who believe that making environmental change is too hard or too late, this book is not for you. For those ready to be inspired and energized, read this book right away. Edwards’s latest book is chock-full of examples of real solutions, advanced by real people all over the globe – solutions that can build a lasting path towards sustainability.

-- Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

Thriving Beyond Sustainability challenges us to move from using a deficit model for thinking about sustainability to using a natural and human abundance approach to thinking about how society will thrive. Edwards provides the reader with both principles and examples from throughout the world. He gives concrete suggestions for action and provides an annotated resource list that supports taking actions. This is a welcome addition to the growing sustainability literature.

-- Paul Rowland, Ph.D., Executive Director, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Thriving Beyond Sustainability captures the spirit of the people and organizations finding solutions that are creating a brighter future for all. In this important book, Edwards presents engaging stories about the positive impact that leaders are making in transforming their communities through green building, energy, agriculture and green business practices among others. A fabulous resource for those interested in learning about the challenges and opportunities before us.

-- David Johnston, Author, Toward a Zero Energy Home and Green Remodeling



At last, a holistic picture of a transformed way of living on the earth! Not just living, but "thriving."

The book ties together stories about initiatives now underway to transform "five interrelated global trends: ecosystem decline, energy transition, population growth, economic disparity,and climate change."

These stories draw a collective picture of new ways of doing things to restore our personal and cultural health and rejuvenate the ecosystem. Thriving Beyond Sustainability gives examples of the outer situation we find ourselves in along with the resources - outer and inner - we have to bring about new possibilities. Edwards encourages the shift from "sustaining" to "thriving" as a challenge to expand our imagination and focus on the capacity of the human spirit to collaborate in creating meaningful changes that improve the lives of all species.

Thrivability thus becomes a new code word for recognizing the human "capacity for empathy, compassion, collaboration, playfulness, creativity, enthusiasm and love." This seems an easy shift to make, and cuts through ideas that separate classes, races, nationalities, and religions. Once we acknowledge that humans are innately cooperative and seek to thrive, competition and scarcity become outdated concepts and we see how the "examples" can become the mainstream. I fully embrace this book.
-- Kristin A. Pauly, Annapolis, MD


Finally a book that doesn’t waste chapters documenting the problems. This book pulls together a lot of the solutions already underway. Chapters include learning from our ancestors, going ‘glocal’, greening commerce, regenerative design, etc. The up-side is that this book pulls together a bunch of good initiatives; the down-side is that if you’ve been in the industry for a while, only dribs and drabs will be new to you. The last chapter lays out his SPIRALS framework, a set of criteria for what he calls a ‘thriveable future’: scaleable, place-making, intergenerational, resilient, accessible, life-affirming, self-care.

-- International Society of Sustainability Professionals


There are plenty of books detailing the dire condition of our relationship with the environment; rather than focus on the many problems surrounding sustainability, Andres Edwards focuses on turning challenges into opportunity in this slim and useful guide. As he identifies a number of successful projects and ideas from around the world, Edwards covers commerce, green design and ultra-local sustainability efforts. At the end of each chapter, Edwards presents concise, bullet-pointed steps for taking action, useful for everyone from the individual hoping to cut his carbon footprint to the serious activist. Add this to pages and pages of links to local, national and international resource groups, and you have one of the more practical and positive sustainability tools available.

-- Next American City (


In his new book, Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society (2010), Andres Edwards moves well beyond his initial and seminal description of the cultural paradigm change suggested by The Sustainability Revolution (2005) to a much broader and encompassing vision of how the sustainability movement is gaining momentum and credibility. Based on his initial premise that these shifts were already well underway in fields as diverse as economics, environmental consciousness, and social justice (equity)—the 3 “E’s” of sustainability—Edwards has gone on to ground these in real changes taking place in many segments of our society. In the earlier work, he documented in detail many of the formalized gatherings and proposals for creating a sustainable presence on our home world. In this new work, he has created a collective map to show how individuals, organizations, and communities are collaborating to restore ecological health, reinvent outmoded institutions, and revive our social, environmental, and economic systems.

This latest work is the result of many further explorations, interviews, and solicitations from those leading the charge into a future of hope and possibility. Beginning with an exploration of the influence and teachings of indigenous cultures on our present society, Edwards focuses on what will make our Earth Island survivable for future generations. There are many examples of cultures and societies who have failed to make this leap into the future. In this book the author places his attention on those traditional societies that have successfully persisted over time and contributed insights that are valuable to modern efforts at sustainability. He then moves beyond this grounding in our roots to examine initiatives across the globe that are striving to become more self-reliant in energy conservation, food production, and local services. It is a natural step from there to look at the greening of commerce in ways that reduce environmental impact and mirror the cycles of natural systems. This is a much larger endeavor that extends to green building practices, eco-communities, and the design of functional living systems that reflect nature and allow our citizens to live in greater comfort and security.

Edwards then moves on to examine worldwide efforts to restore ecosystems in decline and protect biodiversity. He identifies five interrelated global trends that command our attention: ecosystem decline, energy transition, population growth, economic disparity, and climate change. In his view, all these conditions are converging and present both great challenge and great opportunity. This provocative treatise explores each of these in turn and suggests courses that might be followed to convert potential dissolution of our existing social and economic systems to great possibilities for creating a new future based on principles that are being tried and tested in a variety of circumstances. He suggests a new set of strategies which he calls SPIRALS involving initiatives that are: Scalable, Place-making, Intergenerational, Resilient, Accessible, Life-affirming, and Self-care. The content of this volume explores these characteristics in detail under the context of striving for Thriveability and not just sustainability. It will take a concerted effort and commitment to move to this new stage of human and social development, but it is a path open to our exploration.

This new concept, thriveability, focuses on a vision of collaboration and abundance where, instead of seeing ourselves separate from nature, we become an integral part of natural systems and embody qualities such as empathy, compassion, and creativity to guide our actions within the human community. This entails a capacity for belief in the human spirit to create new systems of prosperity and peace. We must begin, he suggests, by healing and greening our own lives and then reaching out to the larger community. In each chapter in this book, Edwards suggests strategies to bring about this reality and specific actions in which each of us can be engaged. This is a beautifully written and eloquent plea for us to wake up to our potential and begin to exercise our natural talents for survival. An extensive resource list at the end provides a wealth of references for further research. This volume is written in a spirit of hope and promise that, if we are willing to follow a fairly simple and direct path, we indeed can have a viable future.

-- Rick Medrich, co-founder and chair of PhD program in Sustainability Education at Precott College, Prescott, AZ.

The more research you do into the subject of sustainability, the more you realize that talking about sustainability is like talking about matter. It's so wide-ranging, multifaceted and pervasive a topic that it's hard even to know where to begin. "Sustainable development" is often equated with environmental protection and conservation, but it's actually far broader than that, encompassing economic, political and sociocultural concerns as well. Defined simply as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,"* sustainable development is more a general approach than a specific set of practices or policies. And it can be applied across literally all sectors of human endeavor, from education to enterprise—and from fine arts to the physical sciences.

Given what a sweeping category sustainability is, author and noted sustainability expert Andrés Edwards is to be commended for distilling it down into two easily digestible volumes for lay readers: The Sustainability Revolution and Thriving Beyond Sustainability. The first book, released in 2005 by New Society Publishers and subtitled as a "Portrait of a Paradigm Shift," showed how large numbers of individuals and organizations across the world had come to recognize the failings of the industrial "growth" economy fast undermining its own ecological foundations, and had begun to forge pathways toward a sustainable future. Their grassroots efforts, Edwards predicted, would prove to be vital guideposts along the uncertain course ahead for humanity. This first book was mostly a theory study; Edwards recalls that he didn't get a chance to flesh out its concepts with tangible examples to the extent that he would have liked. Hence the need for this new book (also from New Society), which he says is intended to share "the stories of the people and organizations undertaking this important work."**

The method of Thriving Beyond Sustainability is straightforwardness itself: the book simply gathers together pointed examples of several key themes long at the core of the global sustainability conversation. The first chapter, titled "Lessons from Our Ancestors," reminds us of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond's case, articulated in his bestselling book Collapse, that human civilizations often decline largely as a result of having despoiled the natural capital on which they depend. Edwards poignantly demonstrates how the modern developed world stands to learn as much from the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island, who went into steep decline after they over-harvested their trees and marine life, as it does from the Inuit, who have managed to thrive for centuries in the Earth's North Polar regions. Some other notable chapters include those on regenerative design, saving ecosystems, going "glocal" and the evolution of the corporate world's new "triple bottom line"—which requires that companies heed social and ecological concerns in addition to economic imperatives when making decisions.

In a vision that will please technological optimists but will seem like blatant pie in the sky to the more pessimistic among the environmental crowd, Edwards insists that with the right approach industrial society can attain a state not only of sustainability, but of "thriveability." Edwards never gives a clear-cut definition of thriveability but he does eloquently describe how it differs from sustainability. "Sustainability," he writes, "separates us from nature and envisions us 'getting by' by limiting our negative environmental impacts over the long term." Thriveability, in contrast, represents a "shift from 'less bad' solutions to solutions that energize us and improve our quality of life through our connections with all life forms."

Edwards asserts that if we citizens of the developed world are to successfully meet our biggest challenges as a civilization (which he deems to be ecosystem decline, energy transition, population growth, economic disparity and climate change), then we must drastically change our entire worldview so that it reflects a thriveability perspective. He says that before beginning any new sustainability initiative we must first evaluate the extent to which it is "Scalable, Place-making, International, Resilient, Accessible, [and] Life-affirming," as well as whether or not it promotes "Self-care" (these criteria go by the acronym SPIRALS). We must also follow the precautionary principle, which states that if there is any doubt as to a proposed initiative's potential risks, we must err on the side of caution and forego implementing it until we have better information.

In the chapters that follow, Edwards presents a thorough analysis of how individuals, corporations, national and regional governments, nonprofits and international organizations, among countless others, are currently undertaking projects that espouse SPIRALS ideals. For example, he highlights the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon, as an exemplary model of the place-making dimension of SPIRALS. The project aims to transform intersections into lively public squares dubbed "Share-It Squares," which foster community and help reclaim public spaces. Edwards points out that crime rates in these repaired sections of the city fell by 10 percent following their conversion into public squares, as reported in the Journal of Public Health. And he cites the environmentally responsible forestry practices of lumber company Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE) as a prime example of SPIRALS' intergenerational component. MTE embraces the "seventh generation" thinking of traditional Native American ethics, which requires that today's decisions be made with a view toward how they might affect people living seven generations from now. Under this directive, the Menominee Forest's total timber volume has not dwindled but rather has steadily grown from 1.3 billion to more than 1.7 billion board feet over the past century and a half.

Where Edwards' analysis falls short, however, is in attempting to illustrate the scalable and accessible aspects of the SPIRALS framework. Compared to the others, these two sections seem overly brief and light on specific examples. For instance, Edwards provides only one concrete example of a present or emerging initiative demonstrating the scalability part of SPIRALS. And that one example, a nationwide infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) as envisioned by the EV service provider Better Place, is patently of dubious scalability, as anyone can tell you who has bothered to look into the daunting obstacles that impede wide-scale EV adoption. Further, Edwards sometimes seems to be hammering an example into a particular subset of the SPIRALS framework, when in fact it could just as easily fit into a completely different one, or even multiple subsets.

But these are relatively minor flaws in what is, for the most part, a comprehensive, prodigiously studied panorama of today's sustainability landscape. Drawing on its author's considerable knowledge of ecological design, sustainable business, environmental education and community development projects, Thriving Beyond Sustainability is sure to be one of the authoritative desk references on sustainability for some time to come.

* The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 43.
** Andrés R. Edwards, Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society (Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2010), ix.

-- Frank Kaminski is a member of Seattle Peak Oil Awareness (SPOA), a connoisseur of post-oil novels and a regular book reviewer for Energy Buletin.


In this new book from New Society Publishers, Andres Edwards attempts to push the envelope on how we should not only view the issue of sustainability, but think about our relationship with the natural world. The author begins his analysis by looking at examples of how indigenous cultures around the world have developed a vision/ethic about how to live with nature instead of trying to control it. However, when it came to concrete strategies I felt that the author was too limited and tended to mimic much of the current liberal writing on sustainability.

-- Jeff Smith, GRIID (Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy).


I can’t decide how I feel about this book, which discusses “five interrelated global trends: ecosystem decline, energy transition, population growth, economic disparity and climate change.” Is it a comprehensive, clear assessment of the many opportunities we face to convert the current crisis into a much better future for all living beings?

Or is this book naively optimistic about the likelihood of reversing the current course of human events, which is leading to the wide scale destruction of our environment and, therefore, of human civilization?

Much as I like the optimistic tone and can-do attitude of the book, it fails to address the major disconnect between the critical environmental problems we face (global warming, peak oil, depletion of water resources, loss of biodiversity, etc) and the lack of public and political will to tackle these problems in a meaningful way. For example, a majority of the American public no longer believes that global warming is a serious problem. The U.S. Senate, likely reflecting that public view, refuses to adopt any substantive policy to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. At least in the United States, most people focus on private property rights, the individual (rather than the community,) and short-term economic gains. Ecosystem services (e.g., clean air and water and good soil) are considered free and abundant. China and India, although quite different from the U.S., also show great challenges in tackling these issues.

Although not addressed directly, the book raises important questions about how each of us can best spend our time and money on these major environmental issues. Should we focus on local, regional, national, or international solutions? Should we make changes in our own lives, work through nonprofit organizations, or seek political change?

As an example, if a benevolent philanthropist gives you $5,000 a year and asks you to spend that money to improve environmental quality, what would you do? Would you buy a more efficient car, get a new bicycle, and install storm windows and more attic insulation in your house? Or would you donate the money to an environmental organization? If you choose the second option, would you give the money to a local, regional, national, or international group? What other options for spending the $5,000 might you consider? Unfortunately, this book does not address these choices.

For me, the key issue is how to convince the majority of Americans that these are important problems we must address now. Too many people believe (1) the economy is what matters, and (2) the environment must take a back seat to our efforts to improve short-term economic performance. How can we demonstrate to them that the economy is part of the larger environment and cannot, in the long run, succeed without a healthy biosphere?

Nevertheless, this is a comprehensive, well written, and interesting guide to a broad range of activities and groups that are addressing today’s environmental challenges. To be practical, each of the eight chapters ends with a “Taking Action” list that suggests several modest and major steps readers can consider for adoption. Examples include:

- Learn about the cultural history of your home region.
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce and suggest ways to promote sustainability initiatives.
- Invite colleagues to a brown-bag lunch and discuss green initiatives for your workplace.
- Research and purchase green building materials for home improvement projects.
- Join a local, national or international environmental group. Participate in one of their campaigns.
- Design a website, blog or wiki that highlights sustainability events of projects in your community and welcomes public input.
- Support your local farmers market. If you don’t have one, start one.
- Develop a green jobs training/internship program with businesses from your community.

This small sample suggests the range and diversity of ways that individuals, acting alone and in groups, can affect positive change. It also shows how challenging and complicated these actions can be.

-- Eric Hirst, NW Citizen, Pacific Northwest Politics.


"We face an unprecedented crisis - and a unique opportunity for a brighter future", writes educator, LEED® Accredited Professional, and founder and president of EduTracks, Andrés R. Edwards in his inspirational and world changing book Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society. The author describes the environmental challenges facing everyone on the planet and offers alternatives to simply relying on sustainability, but moving ahead to a thriving global green culture.

Andrés R. Edwards recognizes the danger that continuing humanity's current path poses if there are not changes in the way that people, business, communities, and nations care for the environment. The author shares lessons learned from a myriad of sources, ranging from indigenous people, to local initiatives, to the greening of commerce in businesses of all types and sizes. The alternatives presented by the author are based on hope, optimism for the future, and the actions of real people from all walks of life. Andrés R. Edwards exhorts people to change their perception of a world not based on scarcity, or even of sustainability, but one of abundant opportunity for all people to live well and in tune with the natural world. The author asks people to expand their thinking, and to free their minds, to examine and consider fresh and unique opportunities for what he calls thriveability.

Andrés R. Edwards offers ideas for living from traditional people to examples of conservation projects on a world wide scale. Through initiatives that purchase and protect sensitive and delicate areas of unique and rich biodiversity, individuals, community groups and corporations are demonstrating leadership in environmental stewardship. The challenges to the environment are being met with projects both small and large. Instead of accepting the lesser of evils, or the less bad option, the author shows that there is another path to follow. That route is one of thriveability, where actions are encouraged that both rebuild and restore natural ecosystems, but also enrich the quality of life for everyone. Through collaboration, creativity, and compassion, Andrés R. Edwards believes that despite seeming insurmountable adversity, people can overcome the obstacles and achieve a lasting and thriving legacy for future generations.

For me, the power of the book is how Andrés R. Edwards provides a positive message of hope and optimism for the future of our planet. The author combines theory with examples of real people, groups, and companies providing imaginative solutions to what were seen as impossible environmental problems. The author combines these features with practical advice and methods that anyone can utilize on their own, within their community, or as part of business of any size or industry.

The message of respect for the environment, its limitations, and its possibilities moves the idea of ecological thinking beyond that of sustainability. That concept, at best perceives the world as having scarcity and loss. In its place Andrés R. Edwards presents a vision of abundance, prosperity for all, and a renewed relationship with the natural world. Through cooperation, sharing of ideas, and empathy with people and the world, the author points the way to a brighter future, and not one of environmental disaster and destruction. This positive assessment, of the future of the world and its people, achieves the author's goal of changing the way people see and perceive the world around them.

I highly recommend the visionary and yet very practical book Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society by Andrés R. Edwards, to anyone seeking an alternative future for our world, its environment, and for all of its inhabitants. In place of doom and gloom, and the feeling of helplessness so often associated with environmental challenges, this book empowers people to take positive action to make the world a better place for the present and the future.

Read the important and perception changing book Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society by Andrés R. Edwards, and discover the road map that leads to thriveability instead of the loss of our natural world. This book takes people beyond the false trails of scarcity, and even of sustainability, to the brighter tomorrow through thriveability.

-- Wayne Hurlbert, Blog Business World.


The book contains the following chapters “Lessons from Our Ancestors”, “Going ‘Glocal’”, “Greening Commerce”, “Regenerative Design”, “Saving Ecosystems”, “Navigating the Confluence”, “Catalysts for Change”, and “A Thriveable Future”. Edwards starts by looking at cases of sustainable development starting with Easter Island and comparing it to modern day Samso in Denmark, an island of similar size. Drawing on Jared Diamond’s Collapse (reviewed here), it includes numerous examples of what organizations and companies are doing to “green” their practices.

It is not entirely clear what “thriving beyond sustainability” entails until the final chapter. There are brief mentions of Cradle to Cradle design and regenerative economies scattered throughout the book. Edwards mentions “thriveability” often, suggesting that sustainability measures will allow and ultimately enable groups to be successful moving forward. In chapter eight (“A Thriveable Future”), Edwards provides a framework (SPIRALS) for thinking about moving beyond sustainability, which he defines as Scalable, Place-making, Intergenerational, Resilient, Accessible, Life-affirming, Self-care. SPIRALS is a way to think about creating a future that is healthy and prosperous for generations to come.

Each chapter provides a list of suggestions at the end as to what the reader can do to make an impact. In addition, at the end of the book, there are a wealth of resources on the web that one can use to learn how to reduce their ecological impact and help improve the social systems in which we live and work. Some of the more promising anecdotes from the book revolve around small business owners in the West and the steps they have taken on the social and environmental front, while growing their business’ valuation. Muhammad Yunus’ microloans and payment for environmental services are two of the programs in the developing world that seem to have a major impact in reducing poverty and maintaining ecological systems.

Reading Thriving Beyond Sustainability feels like reading a compilation of posts from 2nd Green Revolution. Many of the companies and individuals mentioned in posts over our nearly two year existence are profiled in this comprehensive look at we have been referring to as the second green revolution.

-- Eric Wilson, Second Green Revolution.

In a time when we are witnessing catastrophic storms, tragic violence and nations in upheaval, riving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society by Andres R. Edwards off ers a refreshing and optimistic perspective.

Edwards presents us with a view of our world, our Earth Island, where we bear witness to five interrelated global trends: ecosystem decline, energy transition, population growth, economic disparity, and climate change. Edwards points out that with the convergence of these challenges “we face an unprecedented crisis – and a unique opportunity for a brighter future.”

The journey to redefine our relationship with the natural world begins as all journeys do – with our ancestors. Traditional cultures the world over have demonstrated their ability to adapt and survive by way of understanding the interrelationships within an ecosystem, while recognizing humans as part of that system. This traditional ecological knowledge, postulates Edwards, can complement technological advances. But as we lose indigenous cultures, we also lose crucial knowledge for living in balance with the natural world.

Edwards cites projects from around the globe that simultaneously benefit impoverished populations, individual species, and entire ecosystems. When speaking to the critical issue of safeguarding ecosystems, Edwards makes the case that we must evolve beyond the focus on preservation to a strategy that balances ecological protection with the economic and social needs of people. Only with the support and commitment at the local level can longterm success be recognized.

Edwards also addresses our current economic crisis in relation to the ecological crises we face. He illuminates the fact that there is not enough energy or raw materials to support the world’s economic growth at its current rate, and if the world’s population carried a standard of living we are aff orded in the U.S., we’d need three to five Earths to support it. Edwards argues that “recalibrating our economic system so that it more accurately reflects the true costs of resource extraction” is key to safeguarding our limited resources for future generations.

Another solution is designing our human habitat with a more holistic approach. Smart Growth, New Urbanism, and regenerative design are a few strategies highlighted. Edwards points to places like Greensburg, Kansas and Växjö, Sweden, whose residents are redefining the interface between people, buildings, and nature by encouraging development based on natural cycles and cultural traditions.

Edwards brings the book to a close by challenging us to shift from a mindset of sustaining – or getting by – to thriving, enriching the world, and celebrating abundance. He states, “When we are attuned to the rhythms of nature, the possibilities are infinite. This shift from ‘less bad’ solutions to solutions that energize us and improve our quality of life through our connections with all life forms is the essence of thriveability.”

-- Dan Ehresman, Healthy Humboldt. The Northcoast Environmental Center


The title Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society (2010) by Andres R. Edwards is very purposefully selected. In response to the great and necessary changes that Edwards sees in our collective future he chooses to describe that future as one of thrive-ability rather than one of sustainability. Sustainability, he points out, conjures up images of sacrifice and doing without in order to, at least, maintain the planet and, at best, to mitigate our culpability in relationship with it. Thriveability, on the other hand, is a state of abundance and success; an intertwining of human society with the natural world to their mutual benefit. This shift in mindset, Edwards hopes, will help us see the possibilities and to remain positive in our efforts in the face of such an uphill climb.

This book is a collection of initiatives from all sectors of society and all geographic regions that share the common goal of moving us towards a future that respects the natural world, promotes social justice, and increases the level of respect with which we treat one another and our "Earth Island." Edwards begins by exploring practices of traditional societies — such as Tibetan nomads, the Kogi of Colombia, and Inuits — and how those methods have been or could be adapted for use on either a larger scale or in additional locations. He then guides us through successful examples of localism, greening commerce, regenerative design, and saving ecosystems. We are then shown possibilities for how to navigate the alteration of these systems and options for reaching the tipping point for change. Edwards closes by discussing thriveability and how we can attain it in our own lives and work to bring it to our communities.

While well-written, Thriving Beyond Sustainability ultimately reads like an encyclopedia and may have benefited from being organized as such. Reading it as a narrative work is a bit laborious and the "take action" sections at the end of each chapter are too general to be of any real use to the reader. Inspiration is where this book excels. Reading page after page of real-world examples of how people saw problems in their communities and then came up with creative and workable solutions to them is awe-inspiring. It is made very clear that there is much work to be done, but with our many hands and our collective wisdom, success is not outside our reach.

-- Courtney Cable, BLOGCRITICS.ORG


Edwards provides an excellent overview of what is going on in sustainability motivated movements throughout the world, and tells about the various organizations that are actively making change. I think this is a great place to start when wondering "is there a group that's already working on that problem?" and "what sustainability challenges are being addressed?".

Issues covered include going 'glocal' (acting globally, living locally), green businesses, green building & community design, conservation, climate change, and how to create a "thriveable" future. At the end of each chapter, there are tips on actions you can take.

This is a great book for a skim-to-get-what-you-need, but isn't a must-read. If you're already generally aware about environmental issues, you will know what they're talking about. But reading about the examples of groups of people that are taking action on these issues is really inspiring. The end of the book has a complete list of all the organizations mentioned throughout the book, so it's easy to read their summaries, and find from there groups that you are interested in.

So if you're thinking to yourself "I care - but what can I do?" - start here!

-- Ruminations by Sylvie


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