Over the last few weeks I have been pondering many things. Firstly the passing of my friend, then about Kim and her MS, then making the decision to downshift and spend more time with her.
Some of the fuel for this pondering has been in the form of a book. I finished it on Monday, and was reading it just before things started going a little crazy around here. This book was “The Great Disruption – How the Climate Crisis will transform the global economy” by Paul Gilding. It was highly recommended to me by Bec over at “Eat at Dixiebelles“, and I highly trust her opinion after all the work we did together on the Be Prepared Challenge in January this year.
Anyway, to say that the book was a good read was an understatement! This would have to be one of the most thought provoking pieces of literature I have read. No kidding. The first part of it, Chapters 1 through 8 tell the tale of the current climate crisis and describes the most likely scenario of what will pan out based on the best that science can currently offer us. This is because of our ever increasing emissions of greenhouse gas due to our growth economy. The great thing about the book is that once the doom and gloom has sufficiently shock you, he pauses for reflection and then gets to propose many solutions after an event that he calls “The Great Awakening”, which happens not long after the dam of denial finally breaks. Paul then presents you with a concept of “The One-Degree War”, which he predicts will start in around 2018. This is not a ware in the normal sense of man vs. fellow man, but more like man against his own stupidity. It is a global and rapid call to action, with real action to limit warming to an global average of 1 degree Celsius.
I hope this really happens. When it comes down to it, we are the ones in charge of our own destiny. Even when rampant consumerism is all the norm and part of western cultures present way of life, we still get to choose our future with every single dollar we spend on goods and services. However, our consumerism runs deep and thick through our veins. Paul quotes Professor Tim Jackson in Chapter 5 – Addicted To Growth;
“Material goods continue to entrance us, long past the point our material needs are met. The clue to the puzzle lies in out tendency to imbue material things with social and psychological meanings. A wealth of evidence from consumer research and anthropology now supports this point and the insight is devastating. Consumer goods provide a symbolic language in which we communicate continually with each other, not just about raw stuff, but about what really matters to us: family, friendship, sense of belonging, community, identity, social status, meaning and purpose in life.
… The “language of goods” allows us to communicate with each other – most obviously about social status, but also about identity, social affiliation, and even through giving and receiving gifts, for example about our feelings for each other.”
It certainly has taken a few clever marketers to build on this symbolic language, encouraging bizarre behaviours such as SUV’s the size of a small house, equipped with TV screens and a fridge with the driver never getting lost due to GPS. Family homes the size of a country mansion squeezed into a block half the size of my own humble suburban block. A McMansion filled with not one huge TV blaring advertisments at your every 12 minutes, but a home with one in every room, connected to an ever expanding array of electronic entertainment devices. A home with a fridge so large that two people could fit inside and that uses enough electricity in a single day that could power a small village in Ghana for 6 months!
These are all examples of marketing gone crazy and it is unethical in my eyes. Marketers are using a thin veil to hide behind being the consumers perceived right to choose. Rampant consumerism is destroying the environment in which we live and we are already seeing the hard natural limits to such a lifestyle. Climate change, resource depletion, infinite growth on a finite planet, and environmental degredation come formost to my mind.
In Chapter 5, Paul proposes many individual campaigns that could be launched during the One-Degree War, which I will let you read about yourselves, however I shall go into depth about my favourite campaign which is “Shop Less, Live More”. He describes it as follows;
“In order to free up finance, manufacturing capacity, and resources for critical war effort activities, a large-scale campaign to reduce carbon intensive consumption, or at least stabilise it, would be of great help. This will align well with the general need to shift the economy away from carbon-intensive activities toward climate-friendly experiences. We would propose a bottom-up and top-down campaign to highlight the quality-of-life benefits of low-carbon lives with less stuff.”
Less stuff, now there’s a concept that I love to bang on about! The author dedicates the entirety of Chapter 16 – Yes, There Is Life After Shopping. The basic gist is this;
“Once our basic needs are met, more possessions and more money, for which there’s a price to pay in stress, time, and work, actually don’t make us any happier or give us more satisfying lives.”
The global economy relies on the concept of growth at all costs, which by the way is looking shaky with a possible double dip recession occurring in the US and Europe, is totally flawed. The book goes into much detail about growth and how we can turn it into a steady state economy, with quite a convincing set of arguments.
So what would happen if we stopped buying so much stuff? For one we wouldn’t need to work so much to make the money to buy it, or we could work the same but focus instead on paying off all of our debts which so many households in the western world has accumulated during the credit fiesta of pre-2008. If we don’t need the money, because we are buying less stuff, and don’t particularly enjoy our work then we may be motivated to downshift and work less hours! Does this remind you of someone 😉 ? I have implemented a downshift of my own, which is for other reasons than cited above, however the end result is still the same. It is the simple fact that our family does buy less stuff that we find saving and paying down debt a breeze. We make do with what we have. By working a 9 day fortnight I will have an extra 5 weeks leave over the span of a year! Do you think that if you told your own friends about this, would it change their opinion of shopping? 5 weeks extra holidays a year? Living the dream is what I reckon! “Shop Less, Live More” may just have become my new mantra.
The Great Disruption is well written, full of well researched material which is referenced, and best of all, very thought provoking. I have even reread a few of the chapters because they were just so good. Rock on “The Great Awakening”. This is where life gets exciting! We are truly in the transition decade. We just have to take the first real step and rub the dust of denialism out of our eyes.