Jake, being interested in economics, was interested in Capra’s economic stance. Was he a capitalist? I’m not sure I’d call him a Capitalist, but then I’m not sure what I would call him. He did say that we must change the principle that money-making should always be valued higher than democracy, human rights, environmental protection, or any other value (pg. 212 ¶3). He also endorsed the principle of subsidiary: whenever power can reside at the local level, it should reside there (pg. 224 ¶1). He also said people don’t resist change, they resist having change imposed upon them (pg. 100 ¶1) which agrees with his theory that living systems cannot be controlled, they can only be disturbed and they choose which disturbances to notice. Furthermore, he says the rise of the network society goes hand in hand with the decline of the sovereignty, authority, and legitimacy of nation-states. (pg. 219 ¶1). Capra also advocates for the dismantling of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) and replacing them with kinder institutions in a strengthened United Nations that would unify global governance (pg. 225-226). Combined, these details would suggest he believes in some sort of highly decentralized community of regions: one that would not have the hugely powerful, socially blind strength of early twenty-first century capitalism. He doesn’t suggest a redistribution of wealth, so I don’t think he’s a commie. In fact, he says people don’t like having the government tell them what to do. I believe he would like to see a weaker capitalism and a weaker state.  

If “a sustainable human community is one that is designed in such a manner that its way of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life (pg. 230 ¶2),” how do we know when we’re interfering with nature’s abilities? I believe this is an argument for defining carrying capacities of watersheds/regions/the world. In order to determine carrying capacity we need to improve our ecoliteracy. How else can we know when we’re compromising the resiliency of the system? Are we not interfering as long as we aren’t compromising his six principles of ecology that are critical to sustaining life (networks, solar energy, partnership, diversity, dynamic balance)?

Frustratingly, Capra wrote very eagerly about the changes coming to the automotive industry in the way of new fuels and efficiency. He wrote about there being several companies that would be producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles between 2003 and 2005. In mid 2008 Honda leased a limited number of their FCX Clarity fuel-cell cars in Southern California. Honda plans to lease only 200 of these cars during a three year period. Of course one of the problems with hydrogen is the limited infrastructure. It’s a chicken-and-egg question. Who will build cars if there’s no place to fill them up?/Who will build filling stations if there are no cars that need filling? 

Capra also talked about the vast improvements in fuel efficiency. Volkswagen was planning on bringing a 235 mpg vehicle to the US for 2003. But maybe that was a sad typo? Maybe VW was bringing two 35 mpg vehicles to the US for 2003!

The other efficiency triumph he touted was Amory Lovins’s hypercar which was going to send a shock to the industry and make the industry into environmental leaders rather than environmental losers. Well, as we have seen, the industry is choking. Maybe they should have employed Lovins’s innovations. 

Two complaints about the book. The first was that Capra seemed to be quoting the same eight or so experts throughout the book. It could be that people who think it terms relating to systems theory might be few and far between. Either way, diversity creates resiliency and more experts make a more convincing point. The second complaint was his method of dealing with systems theory/complexity theory/nonlinear dynamics. He would often say that as systems theory becomes better understood it would likely provide more insights into such-and-such topic. I never felt like I understood the basics of systems theory to know how it could provide insight.