Library - Wealth & Way of Life

Overview. The third aspect of Sila has been traditionally translated as “Right Livelihood”, though a more precise English articulation of the Pali teaching might be “how one makes one’s way in the World”. So the teaching goes considerably beyond wage-earning, reaching to broader issues such as what are the sources of our wealth, how we expend and invest them, and to what effect. Further, this applies not just to material wealth, but also to how we invest our time, attention, and effort in the living of our lives.

The Buddha’s Core Teaching. The core principle of the Buddha’s teaching in this area is that one should not depend for one’s material sustenance on activities that inflict deliberate harm on others. In his discourses, he cited some examples of harmful livelihoods, such as the manufacture and trade in weaponry or intoxicants, and involvement in the slave trade. But beyond these, the greater principle still applies: to achieve personal gain through the infliction of suffering on others makes one an agent for the perpetuation of suffering in the World at large. And ultimately, it is the perpetrator who is the final victim of these actions.

Once again, the Buddha’s teachings on non-harming, generosity, clear-seeing (in terms of cause and effect) very much apply here. They apply to our wealth and financial well-being as individuals, and they apply to the wealth of nations.

Applying the Teaching.

     Consumerism.  The second of the Buddha’s five precepts for wise action among householders is to not take that which is not given.  This teaching clearly applies to not stealing.  But in a broader sense, it also has to do with distinguishing between wants and needs; that is, between what is truly necessary for us to live a healthy, reasonably comfortable life and what we goods and services we  consume simply for the sake of doing so.  

H. H. the Dalai Lama has observed that we seek pleasure as a lesser substitute for true happiness.  And nearly every means of gratifying those pleasures involves some form of questionable consumption of the Earth’s resources.  So this teaching of the Buddha on not taking that which we don’t really need calls on us to be mindful in the marketplace–to continuously reflect on  the scope of our possessions and the intentions underlying our acquisitions.  The Library entries and Group listings in this program area provide support in doing just that.

     Mindful Investing.  In modern commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings on wealth and way of life, until now there has been relatively little attention focused on how those who are fortunate enough to have funds to invest put their money to work for them. But investment is indeed a form of livelihood; to profit from investment in firms and funds that deliberately inflict suffering on other living beings is in many ways the same as doing that work oneself.

Thus, in this program is area, both in the Library and in the Groups listing, there are sections on socially conscious investing, green tech investing, and divestment from funds or firms that profit from the degradation of our planet’s life sustaining capacity–especially those contributing most directly to climate change. In keeping with the principles governing management of the Earth Sila Community Center, these Library entries and Group listings are for educational and networking purposes only; and do not imply endorsement or advocacy of any of the points of view or actions these sources might recommend.




Alvord, Katie.  Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair With the Automobile. New Society, 2000.

Likening car-addiction to a codependent relationship, Alvord gives a copiously researched and well-rounded argument for going ‘car-lite’ or forgoing the internal combustion engine altogether… and for localizing our lives to replace the ‘necessity’ of a private car with community-building that can make resilience possible for all.


Badiner, Alan H.(ed). Mindfulness in the Marketplace:Compassionate Responses to Consumerism. Parallax Press, 2002.

Eco-ethics, right livelihood and mindful consumption are here discussed by a range of authors from Thich Nhat Hanh to Paul Hawken to Riane Eisler to Joan Halifax, with a forward by Julia Butterfly Hill.


Birnbaum, Juliana & Fox, Louis.  Sustainable (R)evolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms & Communities Worldwide. North Atlantic Books, 2014.

The authors profile dozens of diverse intentional communities located on every continent of the globe that are committed to sustainability.  These inspiring pioneers can motivate even first world urbanites to ‘think outside the box’ and make lifestyle changes in keeping with the permaculture principles of ‘Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share’.


Chiras, Dan & Wann, Dave. Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods. New Society Publishers, 2003.

These Colorado authors give abundant real-life examples of how even suburban neighborhoods can blossom into vibrant communities that are more connected with nature, other people, and can greatly reduce carbon footprints by retrofitting energy systems and sharing resources both more efficiently and equitably, having fun in the process.


Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics.Evolver Editions, 2011.

Eisenstein gives an overview of how capitalism has reached a state of extreme privatization/globalization that impoverishes the majority and monetarily enriches a tiny minority, threatening the integrity of the planet in the process… his ideas on transforming a rapidly unraveling economic system into localized economies that strengthen the public commons, utilize alternative currencies and consider ecological sustainability are gaining traction and converts in many quarters, especially among the young.


Funk,McKenzie.  Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming. Penguin Press, 2014.

An outstanding global tour from the Arctic to California to the Ukraine, looking at how and why corporate ‘futurists’ are collaborating with high-stakes investors to profit from anticipated human needs exacerbated by climate-change related deluge, drought, disease and displacement.

Grescoe, Taras.  Straphanger. Times Books, 2012.

Canadian journalist Grescoe gives an informative in-depth look at how mass-transit has evolved (or not) in major cities like his hometown of Montreal, as well as in Paris, NYC, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Tokyo, Moscow, Copenhagen and more, driving home the message that well designed mass transit helps not only the environment, but community cohesion and social harmony.


Hartmann, Thom. The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight:Waking Up to Personal & Global Transformation. Three Rivers Press, 1999. 

This book looks holistically at the mindset of humanity and how shifting it away from our habituated patterns driven by fossil-fueled technologies and toward a more integrated, connected view of our place in the world’s ecosystem might hold the key to survivability in the challenging times ahead.


Hopkins, Rob.  The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience. Green Books Ltd., 2008.

A guidebook for groups who want to get serious about transitioning and reskilling for a less fossil-fuel-dependent lifestyle as individuals and communities.  Already considered a classic for folks concerned about sustainability who want to move beyond individual to community change, this book is loaded with guidance for building community strengthening resilience and creativity to meet the challenges ahead.


Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Klein describes climate change as a “civilizational wake-up call” that requires much more than greener shopping options, in fact, a radically transformed economic system.  Her analysis of how we got to this critical point and how we might move forward may not hold simple answers, but the questions raised are worth serious consideration and the justifications for optimism/pessimism engendered are a force to be reckoned with.


Lappe, Frances Moore & Anna. Hope’s Edge:The Next Diet For a Small Planet. Penguin/Putnam, 2002.

This mother/daughter team travels the globe to profile people and projects that are making a positive difference in sustainable practices in food production and distribution…loaded with insights and inspiration…and even some great recipes!


Nikiforuk, Andrew. Energy of Slaves: Oil & the New Servitude. Greystone, 2012.

The author makes the case that replacing one form of servitude with another (i.e. human slavery with the vast utilization of oil’s (temporarily) cheap energy may have fostered many marvels of development, but the ensuing moral dilemmas of creating a worldwide monoculture so highly dependent on its continuance has exposed humanity to unprecedented vulnerabilities that need to be looked at from a radically different vantage point if we are ever to live harmoniously as part of the biosphere.


Nikiforuk, Andrew. Tar Sands:Dirty Oil & the Future of a Continent. Greystone, 2010.

Hailing from Calgary, the author’s passionate and penetrating look at how the Alberta Tar Sands project is playing out in Canada and what it portends for the near and distant future in energy development and environmental health may at times be polemical, but his analysis of the profound costs of oil addiction to future generations and to our integrity as human beings in an intricately interconnected world merits attention and positive action.


Pope Francis. Laudato Si’:On Care for Our Common Home. Our Sunday Visitor, 2015.

The much-anticipated Encyclical letter of Pope Francis explores the enormous power of humanity to impact the health and integrity of the interconnected lives that surround and sustain us, and urges us all to care for this world and correct the mistakes of hyperconsumerism and economic injustices/disparities that harm Creation.


 Prud’homme, Alex. The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the 21st Century. Scribner, 2011.

Prud’homme’s investigative reporting on the subject of water makes clear the threats to its quality and security for humanity, and how important serious regulations to protect/conserve water are for the long haul at both macro- and micro-levels.


Smith, David J., illus. by Armstrong, Shelagh. If America Were a Village.Kids Can Press, 2009. (Childrens’ picturebook)

In Smith’s followup to his acclaimed If The World Were A Village(2002) children learn the breakdown percentage-wise of the  people of the US (just like they did of people of the world in the earlier book)  in realms like material wealth,  gender, access to education, ancestry, religion etc. by observing a small, hypothetical village of 100 people in this imaginative and informative picturebook for young children (K-5).

Squarzoni, Phillipe.  Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science. Abrams Comicarts, 2014.

There are times when a graphic novel format can run circles around any other genre to inform, inspire and get under the skin, and Squarzoni is clearly a master at this…. His very personal journey through the science of climate change has elicited accolades from Jean Jouzel of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as a narrative that is “essential” and “a true feast” for readers who want to truly get what’s happening with the science in a comprehensive, engaging way– a great resource.


Tremayne, Wendy Jehanara.  The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living. Storey Publishing, 2013.

DIY tips on how to make biodeisel, papercrete, photovoltaic solar systems, nut milks, fermented foods and much more that can help you live a less consumptive lifestyle, develop community and feel good about reducing your carbon footprint by a creative outside-the-box thinker with loads of heart.


Wheatley, Margaret & Frieze, Deborah.Walk Out Walk On:A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now.Berret-Koehler Pubs.,2011.

This book goes to 7 communities around the globe where people have been using their creativity and passion to work together to live more fully conscious and resilient lives than proscribed in the dominant culture… communities where, as Joanna Macy puts it, “the future is happening- not in the corridors of power but at the grassroots”.









Economics of Happiness, (Helena Norberg-Hodge, 2011)  Norberg-Hodge’s critique of the far-reaching environmental/cultural consequences of economic globalization, with significant focus on Laddakh’s dilemma of how to preserve a healthy cultural identity, given the pressures of imported market forces/technology– a very thought-provoking film, featuring commentary by well-known environmentalists.


The Future of Food, (Debora Koon, 2004) looks into genetically engineered foods and the dangers of a globalized, monetized food system that gives more weight to patents and profits than it does to human or environmental health… The section about Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeizer’s experience being sued by Monsanto when their patented seed ends up in his fields by accident is not to be missed. Shows people reclaiming their food sovereignty in a variety of ways.


The Global Gardener, (Julian Russell, 1991) Comprised of 4 segments from a popular Australian public tv program hosted by Bill Mollison, who, along with David Homgren, coined the term, “permaculture” decades ago…. each segment (1.”In the Tropics”, 2. “Dry Lands”, 3. “Cool Climates” and 4.”Urban”) profiles techniques/philosophies/practices showing how people around the globe are working to correct the mistakes of the ‘green revolution’ to grow food more sustainably.