Gift Giving by Peter Denton

Gift Giving

Just in time for the holidays, Gift Ecology: Reimagining a Sustainable World is a little book packed with big ideas. It’s the latest effort from Peter Denton, a Winnipeg-based academic and blogger, whose regular contributions can be seen at and elsewhere.  Denton’s past work is in diverse fields – theology, literary studies, the history of science – and is matched by an equally diverse teaching experience at institutions ranging from Red River College to the Royal Military College. At its heart, Gift Ecology is a lament for the excesses of transactional life – the economic realities of exchange and commerce that blind us to the true value of both the people around us and the earth on which we live. At the same time, however, it is a call to action – a plea that we rethink our place in the world, and focus on the act and idea of giving as a means of transforming both ourselves and our global environment. In making this case, Denton draws on a range of both classic and quirky thinkers, mixing the personal and the profound in a short, compelling narrative.

The holiday season is a traditional time for many economic developers to take a break, and to recharge their batteries, and Gift Ecology may be the ideal – well – gift for helping this along.  At one point in the book, Denton reflects on the hardy durability of the scrub oaks that grow on the prairies. While settlers, pioneers and newly-arrived farmers tended to plant large, leafy trees in their new homes, these were ill-suited to the prairie environment, and most were gone within a generation. But year after year, the native scrub oaks endure and survive, centuries old despite their stunted and ragged nature. They are at home in their environment – adapted to it, enabled by it, gifted with the ability to thrive where other trees cannot. In a field like economic development, where many are driven by bigger, deeper, faster opportunities, this is an important lesson…where are our scrub oaks? And what gifts is economic development bringing to our world? As we contemplate issues like Genuine Progresssocial enterprise and the digital divide, can we really say that we are giving all the gifts of which we are capable? For help in posing these and larger questions, you can find copies of Gift Ecology here.