“How Can You Make Consumption Sustainable?”

It has been suggested that if everyone on planet Earth lived the way we do in the developed world, we would need four planets. Present-day consumerism is unsustainable – but how can it be replaced?

Traditional economics teaches that unfettered growth, greater consumption and productivity benefit society. In Enough is Enough, sustainability experts Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill refute that premise. Unfettered economic growth, they explain, only perpetuates environmental degradation, undermines social justice and widens the gap between rich and poor. The authors argue in favor of a “steady-state economy” instead, which matches economic demands with the Earth’s ability to provide and replenish resources. Building this new economy, the authors insist, will require a new definition of economic success, considering factors such as greater income equality, job security and an improved quality of life:

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Enough Is Enough

This provocative book challenges many beliefs about the value of unfettered economic growth.

Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

In Limits to Growth, Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows present data on resource consumption, economic distribution, population growth and pollution to show that humanity is in a condition of “overshoot.” The solution to bringing the world back into balance, the authors contend, won’t lie in technological breakthroughs or new economic policies. What the world needs instead is a complete revamp of the current system. For this to happen, however, people will need to change their assumptions about the nature of the world. A society that wants to be truly sustainable uses renewable resources only as fast as it can regenerate them, plans for the long term and genuinely addresses the problem of poverty:

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Limits to Growth

What does the future hold for humanity? Does humanity even have a future?

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows Earthscan

Stop buying stuff and be happy anyway, says environmental activist Natalie Fee. From using reusable water bottles to ditching your car and cutting down meat consumption, Fee offers a long list of measures individuals can take to save the planet. Although real change must occur on a systemic, worldwide level, it’s empowering to know that individuals, by changing their consumerist behavior, can make a difference:

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How to Save the World For Free

When it comes to saving the Earth, environmental activist Natalie Fee says you can be the change you want.

Natalie Fee Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Although William McDonough and Michael Braungart echo the depressing data of other environmental scientists and thought leaders on the topic, they offer a unique and much more optimistic perspective on the world’s ecological problems. Human creativity, they say, is virtually limitless. Humans thus have what it takes to heal the Earth through thoughtful design. The “Upcycle” principles the authors propose is based on the premise that everything on Earth has the potential to be something else. Designers applying this principle will thus seek to create products and processes that nurture the Earth instead of simply not hurting it. The way out of the vicious cycle of overconsumption and environmental degradation, the authors conclude, is to put human values first:

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The Upcycle

Thoughtful innovation can fuel a quantum leap in environmental solutions.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart North Point Press

Making the world economy and society sustainable requires a complete revamp of the capitalist economic system and the modus operandi of private companies. But such revolutionary changes must be preceded by changes in individual mind-sets and consumer behavior – one person (and one inspiring read) at a time.

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