What would happen if everyone would start to buy less? Would it be the end of the world?
This book is described by the author as a thought experiment that explores what would happen if we did not exactly stop shopping (you could say that the title is a bit of clickbait) but if we would shop significantly less – like 25% less.
It’s not one of those books that tell you what to do. You will not find a list of steps on how to reduce your consumption. Instead, it explores all the different ways that we do consume – clothing (keyword “fast fashion”), food, electricity … I’m actually consuming just by writing this on my computer, then publishing it on this website and finally you are consuming by reading this on your PC, smartphone or tablet … it’s actually scary, how much it is a part of our life and therefore how hard it is to reduce it just a little bit.
But is this just a crazy thought experiment or would it actually be possible to consume less? As the author points out, just a short time ago no one took him seriously wanting to explore a 25% reduction in shopping … and then it happened: COVID19 came and shut down whole countries and suddenly we really did the unthinkable – we consumed less. We ourselves had to cut back our spending by a third and I am still amazed that we managed to do it. How? Well, suddenly we set priorities and eliminated all the stuff that we don’t really need – expensive hobbies were ditched and travel plans canceled.
But then why did we buy & consume them in the first place? Good question and I’m starting to doubt there is or was ever a good reason. More like “because it was there in the shop and it looked useful” or “because I wanted it or deserved it”. Maybe because we are caught in this rat race competing with our neighbors and trying to literally keep up with the Kardashians?
I think what the book shows is that we need a change of attitude. That consuming less will only ever be possible if we want less, if we need less or if we can make do with less. Just being happy with what we have would be a good start. And not only if an economic crisis – may it be global or just personal – forces us to do so. Otherwise, we will just bounce back once the crisis is over and we have more money to spend.
But will we not be able to maintain our current lifestyle by buying green a.k.a. eco-friendly products & services? Won’t scientists come up with some new technology that will provide us with all the clean energy that we’ll need? What if we manage to set up a truly circular economy?
Maybe, but – and that is another shocking theory from this book – it won’t solve the problem. The problem is and will be the need for perpetual growth. Even if we will have a circular economy: if it keeps growing, it will eventually hit the limit of what this planet can support. Or in other words, as long as you spend more and more money on products or services, we won’t reduce carbon emissions. As the author points out, a real reduction in carbon emissions only ever happened so far when there was an economic crisis.
So, what’s the solution? Well, according to Mackinnon, it’s that we need to change our mindset and consume less. Only if we reduce our consumption – may it be as green as it could be – only then will we be able to reduce our carbon footprint.
I have the feeling that it won’t be easy. But I really hope that it won’t require another pandemic. Hopefully, we can change our minds & hearts and be happy with what we have. But it will be a long way and we don’t have too much time left if we truly want to do something about climate change.
Yes, if everyone would shop and consume less, it would be the end of the world as we know it. But in the long run, that will be necessary and good for us all.
If you read this book, let us know your opinion and if you have other book recommendations around this topic, please drop them in the comments box. We will truly appreciate it 🙂
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