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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jan/Feb 2000 : Book Review

A Message for Planet Pluto

by Beverly Russel

Listening to the gentle clipclop of horse buggies driven by Amish farmers while sitting on the porch of my favorite home-away-from-home—the Checkerberry Inn, Goshen, IN—I read a new book called Econominology: The Eleventh Commandment, written by one of the foremost green thinkers in the design industry, Peter Wege, whose father founded Steelcase, Inc. Since he started the Center for Environmental Study in Grand Rapids, MI, in 1970 (the year of the first Earth Day), Wege’s activities have been impressive, from helping to clean up the Grand River to producing a new CD-ROM for grade schoolers on the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. But his latest publication will clearly get his beliefs out to the world, from top management down to ordinary people who, he points out, have lost faith in government’s honesty in dealing with critical issues of earth, air and water.

Wege coined the word economicology, meaning that economics and ecology can actually benefit each other, and must be practiced in concert if humankind is to avoid going the way of dinosaurs. In putting this message across, Wege draws on the collective brain trust of more than 70 intellectuals who have published books and papers during the past 80 years. The list is too long to name in full but includes popular heroes such as biologist Rene Dubos, author Rachel Carson, engineer Buckminster Fuller, philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, ecologist Gary Null and futurologist Fred Hoyle, all of whom had an extra exuberance for the earth and for life and laid out the case scientifically for better management of the planet, but alas still have yet to be universally heard and heeded. Wege has managed to expertly summarize their thinking so it is easily digested in short chapters, interlaced with dozens of memorable quotations which he has gathered over the years, such as:

• “Minds are like parachutes—they only function when open.” Lord Devon

• “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

• “In all thy getting, get understanding.” Solomon

•“You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Abraham Lincoln

What also makes the book particularly appealing is that it is written in accessible language and generously illustrated with strong cartoon drawings by Mark Heckman. Recognizing that most people lose interest in the subject of ecology—perhaps because the vocabularly sounds negatively boring or the future outcome seems utterly hopeless—Wege outlines the “option and action” to accomplish a positive result with E6: “a collaborative union of the Environment, Economics, Ecology, Ethics, Empathy and Education.” He builds up his convincing argument for economicology with substantial evidence that it does work.

For example, an MIT study by Professor Stephen Meyer found that companies operating in “greener” states appear to actually prosper more than do businesses in “browner” environmentally unfriendly states, thus proving the green of money and the green of landscape increase in tandem where good, reasonable environmental laws prevail. Plenty of other instances exist in which good business practice allied with ecology blackened the bottom line.

More importantly, for those people who do not walk the corridors of political power or hold reins which might instigate a change in business thinking from short-term profit to long-haul human survival, Wege introduces the cosmic dimension. This view comes from advanced experiments in modern physics which demonstrate that everything in the planet is connected, and that simple observation can change the thing being observed. Apparently this radical discovery is called the “uncertainty principle.” The hopeful message here is that merely focusing the mind and will-power can alter any given situation. Wege says you can paraphrase this unity concept in the code of the Three Musketeers: All for one and one for all. So just by thinking that E6 is desirable, you can help put the option into action.

Wege’s 157-page self-published book is available through the Wege Foundation, P.O. Box 6388, Grand Rapids, MI 49506 and costs $13. Worth every cent if only to be reminded that “extinct is forever.”

Beverly Russell is president of Beverly Russell Enterprises, a Chicago, IL, consulting firm known for its creative thinking and event coordination. She also serves as executive director for Archeworks, an alternative design school. Russell is an award-winning journalist, as well as an international author, educator and lecturer.


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