Category Archives: Consumption

Radical Simplicity and the Middle-Class – Exploring the Lifestyle Implications of a ‘Great Disruption’

"How would the ordinary middle-class consumer – I should say middle-class citizen – deal with a lifestyle of radical simplicity? By radical simplicity I essentially mean a very low but biophysically sufficient material standard of living, a form of life that will be described in more detail below. In this essay I want to suggest that radical simplicity would not be as bad as it might first seem, provided we were ready for it and wisely negotiated its arrival, both as individuals and as communities. Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that radical simplicity is exactly what consumer cultures need to shake themselves awake from their comfortable slumber; that radical simplicity would be in our own, immediate, self-interests." (Source:

Gloomy analysis of our consumer society after post-growth collapse. Forbidden reading for anyone who believes "our way of life is non-negotiable". Truth is, nature will not negotiate and things are likely to be a bit less "nice" than described in this article.

Suddenly, quantitative easing for the people seems possible

As some of the world’s top central bankers start to admit that standard quantitative easing is failing to generate growth, previously taboo ideas can be mentioned, including QE for the People, discussed here last week.” (Source: Reuters Blogs)

Interesting and provocative ideas from financial economist Anatole Kaletsky (author of "Capitalism 4.0"). Give the new money created by central banks to the people instead of the banksters.

The problem with Kaletsky’s potentially popular solution for our Great Depression? The money given to people should be used for new consumption. As in his famous book, Kaletsky does not question economic growth, the consumer society, inequality or capitalism. Worth reading nevertheless.

Individual Actions Just Don’t Add Up to Environmental Change

"The bottom line is that green shopping, even when practiced by millions of people, just doesn’t add up to enough to affect the system. Sociologists call this the behavior-impact gap.." (Source: NY Times)

Excellent contribution by Annie Leonard ("The Sory of Stuff") to an interesting NY Times debate on sustainability, green consumption and system change.

Our real source of power to make a difference is through changing the polices and structures in which production and consumption happen, and we do that through civic engagement, not better shopping. So shop responsibly. Just be sure that’s where you start, not where you stop. “

Rio+20: Jeffrey Sachs on how business destroyed democracy and virtuous life

The world famous economist on corporate control, the search for happiness and why a multi-disciplinary approach is the only way to find solutions to sustainability challenges…” (Source: Guardian Sustainable Business blog)

Excellent article from the Guardian’s Sustainable Business blog.

Here are a few remarkable extracts from the interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs:

The other face of businesses is that they are too powerful in our societies. They write the rules, they pay the politicians, sometimes illegally and sometimes, via what is called legal, which is financing their campaigns or massive lobbying.

"Billions of dollars are spent and this is horrendous because if business writes the rules, it is not true their shareholder value is their value to society. It can reflect highly destructive practices which the politicians turn their eyes away from because of the political power companies hold. This has got completely out of control and is leading to the breakdown of modern democracy."

While social networking has the power to break the existing power structures, Sachs also recognises its power to enslave us further to consumerism.”

Are ecolabels going through a midlife crisis?

On their blog, the sustainability experts of UK-based analyst Verdantix are asking some challenging questions on the future of eco-labelling.

The article refers to the interesting French experiment on eco-labelling (“affichage environnemental”) which will introduce a mandatory multi-criteria system for product evaluation by 2012. Here is some more information on this French system which could indeed become a “test-bed” for future EU regulation:

New WEF report sees urgent need for sustainable consumption revolution

A new report by the World Economic Forum makes the case for an emergency transformation to sustainable consumption in a resource-constrained world. 

The report "More with less: scaling sustainable consumption and resource efficiency" is an absolute must-read.  

Read the full report and the executive summary.

More about this report on this blog from tomorrow. Read already Simon Zadek’s evaluation: “Sustainability’s Cinderella – Us!”.

3 Must-Have Apps for a Sustainable 2012

2012 is not going to be easy. But these apps will help you navigate the likely turbulence of the next 12 months.”   (Source:

Sally Uren of the UK’s Forum for the Future presents 3 sustainability trends for 2012: rethink capitalism, get serious about collaborative consumption and take sustainability to the consumer. Interesting read.

What is wrong with EU austerity policies?

At Project Syndicate, Jean Pisani-Ferry, director of Bruegel, the international economics think tank, has some reservations over current indiscriminate austerity policies in Europe.  

The Achilles heal of all these traditional economists reading of the current debt crisis is that they all still believe this crisis is temporary and we will return to growth in the not too distant future. What if this crisis is more fundamental and we have really entered the post-growth society in Western economies? Read Richard Heinberg’s article “Life after the end of economic growth” in the Guardian.

That said, the challenges for the post-growth movement is no less daunting. Not only is economic growth still the mother of all poverty-reduction in emerging economies but the austerity implications of living above our means (financially as well as ecologically) need to be framed in a new credible prosperity and distribution narrative if post-growth policies are ever to convince traditional policymakers and citizens.

The New Story of Stuff: Can We Consume Less?

“A new study finds that Britons are consuming less than they did a decade ago, with similar patterns being seen across Europe. Could this be the beginning of a trend in developed countries? Might we be reaching “peak stuff”?” 

 Interesting article in the Yale Environment360 blog: are we witnessing a decline in resource use in developed countries?

The article by science journalist Fred Pearce is based on a research paper by UK environmentalist Chris Goodall called “Peak Stuff”.

See also George Monbiot’s analysis of the Peak stuff study.

Defense Science Board Report Stresses Need For Climate Change Study In Intelligence Community

“How will the U.S. government tackle climate change? A recent report suggests that the intelligence community could benefit from the creation of an open and collaborative group to study and mitigate climate change.” (Source: Huffington Post)

American defence and intelligence circles are getting increasingly worried about the national and global security implications of the climate crisis. Could this change the Republicans views on the subject and lead in the longer run to more US mitigation action?  I have my doubts as the American climate scepticism has little to do with being well informed but more with political ideology and the strong belief that the “American way of life” is non-negotiable. Any efforts to transform the Empire of Abundance into a champion of low-carbon living is likely to lead to internal security threats too as lots of Americans would not accept any constraints in their material consumption.



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