How Much Is Enough?: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth

Overview

Early in the age of affluence that began after World War II, retailing analyst Victor Lebow declared: "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate." Americans have risen to Mr. Lebow's call, and much of the world has followed. The wildfire ...
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Overview

Early in the age of affluence that began after World War II, retailing analyst Victor Lebow declared: "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate." Americans have risen to Mr. Lebow's call, and much of the world has followed. The wildfire advance of the consumer lifestyle around the globe marks the most rapid and fundamental change in day-to-day existence the human species has ever experienced. Over a few short generations, we in the affluent fifth of humanity have become car drivers, television watchers, mall shoppers, and throwaway buyers. The tragic irony is that while the consumer society has been stunningly effective in harming the environment, it has failed to provide us with a sense of fulfillment. Consumerism has hoodwinked us into gorging on material things because we suffer from social, psychological, and spiritual hungers. Yet the opposite extreme--poverty--may be even worse for the human spirit and devastates the environment too, as hungry peasants put forests to the torch and steep slopes to the plow. If the Earth suffers when people have either too little or too much, the questions arise: How much is enough? What level of consumption can the planet support? When do more things cease to add appreciably to human life? These are the issues that Alan Thein Durning tackles in his eloquent and thought-provoking How Much Is Enough? The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth. How Much Is Enough? is the second book in the Worldwatch Institute's new Environmental Alert Series. Ultimately, Durning argues, the linked fates of humanity and the natural realm depend on us, the consumers. We can curtail our use of ecologically destructive things and cultivate the deeper, nonmaterial

Consuming goods and services has become a central goal of life in industrial lands the world over. In this book, Alan Durning of the Worldwatch Institute explores the roots of the consumer society, exposes the toll that our appetites have taken on the earth's natural systems, and suggests that there are other paths to fulfillment.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Durning, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, develops the thesis that of the three issues the global community must address in order to save the world's environment--population growth, technological change, and consumption--the latter is the most neglected and can ill afford to be. He argues that it is easier to focus on technology, which is simpler to replace than the cultural attitudes governing consumption. The conundrum of consumption is that ``limiting the consumer life-style to those who have already attained it is not politically possible . . . or ecologically sufficient . . . and extending that life-style to all would hasten the ruin of the biosphere.'' Durning calls for a ``culture of permanence,'' a society that lives within its means. A potent philosophical as well as practical guide, this is recommended for collections concerned with the growing issue of environmental sustainability.-- Jennifer Scarlott, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, New York
Booknews
Looks for the balance between poverty that degrades human life, and rampant consumerism that degrades the earth. Argues for nonmaterial sources of fulfillment. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393033830
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Series: Worldwatch Environmental Alert Series
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 1.00 (w) x 1.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Foreword 11
I Assessing Consumption 17
1 The Conundrum of Consumption 19
2 The Consumer Society 26
3 The Dubious Rewards of Consumption 37
4 The Environmental Costs of Consumption 43
II Searching for Sufficiency 63
5 Food and Drink 65
6 Clean Motion 78
7 The Stuff of Life 89
III Taming Consumerism 103
8 The Myth of Consume or Decline 105
9 The Cultivation of Needs 117
10 A Culture of Permanence 136
For Further Reading and Action 151
Notes 155
Index 191
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