Eat, drink and be miserable: the true cost of our addiction to shopping
(Madeleine Bunting calls for)...a low-consumption economy oriented towards facilitating the real sources of human fulfilment. Most of us dimly recognise that huge lifestyle changes are necessary, but we're waiting for someone else to initiate the process. It's a question of "I will if you will" - the title of a thoughtful report last year from the government's Sustainable Development Commission. Hearteningly, we know it can be done - our parents and grandparents managed it in the second world war.What a radical proposal: Eat (less), Drink (less) and be (more) Miserable. All done by government diktat and propaganda. I'm old enough to remember the days of rationing (and ID cards) and if Bunting thinks we were all happier back then she's even more stark, staring bonkers than I feared.
This useful analogy, explored by Andrew Simms in his book Ecological Debt, demonstrates the critical role of government. In the early 1940s, a dramatic drop in household consumption was achieved - not by relying on the good intentions of individuals (and their ability to act on that coffee-stained pamphlet), but by the government orchestrating a massive propaganda exercise combined with a rationing system and a luxury tax. This will be the stuff of 21st-century politics - something that, right now, all the main political parties are much too scared to admit.