A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Book Review

The Ashokan Way & A New Global Agenda

    Diana Ayton-Shenker of Rhinebeck, who serves as the Global Catalyst Senior Fellow at The New School, has edited a new book, A New Global Agenda: Priorities, Practices, and Pathways of the International Community (Rowman & Littlefield), that we recommend as a cogent guide to what needs our attention these days beyond Twitters and endless punditry. Consisting of 21 heavily footnoted essays in three categories — People, Society and Planet — the work maintains a clear-eyed sensibility that stresses ethical considerations over simple economics, a great tonic for those looking for bigger picture answers to today’s anxiety-riddled world.

    “The book shifts from ‘issues’ to priorities, practices and pathways,” Ayton-Shenker writes in her introduction. “This shift seeks to animate and activate the agenda from a list of ‘what’ needs to be addressed, to a framework for ‘how’ progress can be made to achieve the better world we see and seek. The book attempts to elucidate strategies rather than impose solutions, illuminating possible ways forward.”

    In the past the editor has worked with United Nations officials and agendas; this time she’s stretched her arms wider. Of particular interest to Livelihood readers are chapters on sustainable economics, new agricultural theories, health access, new uses for higher education, “crowdsourcing the feminine intelligence of the planet,” and “An Economy in Service to Life.”

    The result refreshes via its deep thoughtfulness, the fullness of its well-researched pieces, and the return to analysis that doesn’t attempt to relegate difficult truths to bullet points, but instead finds a challenge to rise in all difficult situations. It’s a book about hope, and how one can not only reengage it, but render it lasting.

    Similar, in a more personally transformative way that looks directly to our local landscape for inspiration, comes The Ashokan Way: Landscape’s Path Into Consciousness (Homebound Publications) by Gail Straub of the Empowerment Institute, which she founded in 1981.

    Straub’s book is a lyrical journal of small discoveries, matching natural observation with inner exploration, all reflective of the great teachings, spiritual and holistic, available to all of us in the Hudson Valley. It’s chapters ring like clear bells, each toned slightly different from the next, cool and resonant. By the end they form a song that feels both like breath and a symphony, but also the glories of birdsong mingled with rustling leaves, lapping water, and a breeze.

    “Yes, nature can cure, and it can also be brutally destructive. As a master teacher of paradox, the earth is clearly trying to show me that I cannot have one without the other,” she writes in a piece entitled, “Heaven Here on Earth,” from her May entries. “And I, too, am compassionate and cruel, nurturing and destructive, warm and cold, light and dark. I, too, am dying and being reborn throughout my seasons.”

    What a rich region, and time, we inhabit, being able to embrace both the global and locally observed in one place, in one region’s Quality of Life. Mixing such impulses, and mindful reading, is what provides the deeper roots of all we bring to our new economics.