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Kick The Consumerist Habit – notes from June’s Transition Tuesday

After our meeting on consumerism on the 9th June, I said I would provide references, so here they are.

The presentation slides can be downloaded from below. The first half of this file contains A4 slides and the second half has the same slides, but with explanatory notes.

At the beginning of the talk, we showed the excellent “Story of Stuff”, which can be viewed at We watched the original video from 2007. There are several more recent films on the site.

E F Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” (1973) is one of the seminal texts of the environmental movement. It is a collection of essays and lectures presented at different times to diverse audiences. One of Schumacher’s main messages, about the impossibility of infinite growth in a finite system, appears several times. For example: “From an economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence. We must study the economics of permanence. Nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities. There can be ‘growth’ towards a limited objective, but there cannot be unlimited, generalised growth.” (Vintage edition, 2011, page 20)

The quotation that I paraphrased about civilisations disappearing through resource depletion was itself a quotation that Schumacher took from “Topsoil and Civilisation”, written in 1955 by Tom Dale and Vernon Gill Carter: “How did civilised man despoil this favourable environment? He did it mainly by depleting or destroying the natural resources… There have been from ten to thirty different civilisations that have followed this road to ruin (the number depends on who classifies the civilisations).”

The graph showing the correlation of economic output to energy use is taken from “The Economic Growth Engine” by Robert Ayres and Benjamin Warr (2010).

Juliet Schor’s 1991 book, “The Overworked American”, was one of the first formal studies of economic systems before the Industrial Revolution.

John Maynard Keynes’ 1930 essay, “Economic Prospects for our Grandchildren”, may be downloaded from Yale University’s website.

Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness”, written in 1932, can be found at

The New Economics Foundation’s 2010 report, proposing a 21­hour working week can be found on their website.

We are interested to hear your thoughts about the talk, and about the works referenced above. If you would like to comment or ask a question, please send get in touch.

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