The Wealth of Communities

Earthscan, 1994

by Charlie Pye-Smith and Grazia Borrini Feyerabend, with Richard Sandbrook

When we wrote this book, some 20 years ago, the vast majority of books about the environment were full of gloom and misery. Richard Sandbrook was then the director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a London-based think tank. He had been given a small grant by the Ford Foundation to write a sort of environmental memoir: the state of the world according to Richard. But his talent lay in speaking, not writing. He suggested that Grazia and I should pocket the money and write a book about communities which were making conspicuously intelligent use of the resources on which they depended.

The Wealth of Communities tells the stories of 10 communities which were shaping their own destinies, and improving the environment, often in the face of hardship and opposition. On one field trip, to visit forest-dwelling Indians in Costa Rica, Grazia and I were joined by Richard. It was, by some distance, the most enjoyable episode in the writing of this book, for all sorts of reasons which had nothing to do with the story.

Richard died in 2005 and he is still greatly missed. Here is his obituary in the Independent.

Wealth of Communities cover


“I commend this charming book to those who believe – as well as to those who still doubt – that deep within our human spirit there is an innate ability to live sustainably with nature.”
— HRH the Prince of Wales