Local historian Jeremy Caradonna behind the desk at Share Organics

New book by UVic author tackles sustainable economics

'Constant growth is not solving the world’s problems,' says author and Victoria resident Jeremy Caradonna

Jeremy Caradonna’s already busy life has jerked forward at a rate few could survive.

The fast-talking Fernwoodite (who grows food, not grass) is an adjunct associate professor in environmental sciences at the University of Victoria who recently released the book, Sustainability: A History, through Oxford University Press.

He’ll speak tonight (Nov. 21) at the Belfry Theatre, connecting topics from the book to movements in Greater Victoria.

“The idea of the book is to connect the past, present and future of sustainability,” said Caradonna, a trained historian who grew up in Seattle and completed a PhD at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland before moving to Victoria.

“Sustainability as a concept didn’t show up in the 1980s, which a lot of people believe, it showed up in 1700s literature as a reaction to industrialization.”

Sustainability has already sold 2,000 copies and is well received in the academic community. It was recently included in Atlantic Magazine and Oxford believes it will be a non-fiction bestseller.

Caradonna crafted the book with Oxford while holding down a packed schedule as a hands-on father to daughters three and five, a fly-in associate professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and, as a co-owner of Share Organics local food delivery company with wife Hannah, a practising pyscho-therapist.

“What’s fascinating about sustainability is talked about by political parties, such as the U.K., without being attached to anyone,” he said.

On a historical level, Sustainability carries a heavy theme of re-examination, pulling out past academics, philosophers and ecological economists from the last three centuries.

Many of them are well known for other work, such as John Stuart Mill, the 19th century British philosopher and economist, but not for theories about sustainability and ecological values in capitalism.

“The book charts the reaction to industrialization over the last two centuries. Aspects of sustainability were there all along but on the fringe. Stuart Mill, for example, also talked about sustainability but was appropriated by neo-classical philosophers for his other ideas.”

At the highest levels, Sustainability is about qualitative capitalism versus quantitative. Economist Simon Kuznets’ work is credited as forming the Gross National Product.

But he said bigger is not better, that the GDP doesn’t measure the ability to live sustainably, Caradonna said.

“Constant growth is not solving the world’s problems. The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 boosted the U.S. economy by $2 billion in clean up efforts and the 2010 Gulf spill must be near or have surpassed that by now. Sadly, these contribute to the GDP, a wrongly used number.”

Tonight’s lecture is part of Fernwood NRG’s Fernwood University series, 7 p.m. at the Belfry. Entrance is free, and Caradonna will be selling the book. The book is also available at jeremycaradonna.com through amazon.com.

reporter@saanichnews.com