Industries

Showing 1-8 of 409 books
Sort by:
View Mode:
Mass Disruption

Mass Disruption

Thirty Years on the Front Lines of a Media Revolution
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
More Info
The Far Shore

The Far Shore

The Art of Superbrothers and the Making of JETT
edition:eBook
More Info
The Day the World Stops Shopping
Excerpt

Suppose that we suddenly listened to all of those voices through history that have asked us to live with less. One day the world stops shopping.

That is the thought experiment I’ve undertaken in this book. It began when I confronted the consumer dilemma for myself. Like many people today, I’d taken to contemplating how my own consumption contributes to climate change, the destruction of forests, plastic pollution in the oceans, and the many other ecological crises that are making our world uninhabitable. I knew I could choose to reduce my consumption. (When I was younger, I once gave spare change to a panhandler, who took one look at my shoes—duck-billed open at the toes to reveal my stockinged feet—and handed the money back. “You look like you need it,” he said.) But how could I stop shopping, when I also believed that if everyone else did the same, it really would lay waste to the global economy? To see if there was a way out of this quandary, I thought, I would need to play out the scenario to its end.

I start at the beginning: What happens in the first hours and days of a world that stops shopping? How do we parse our wants and needs? Whose life changes the most and whose the least? Does the earth begin to heal, and if so, how quickly? From there, I explore the economic collapse that seems inevitable—and also discover how, even in catastrophe, we begin to adapt. Unlike every other such crash in memory, this experiment of mine doesn’t end with the world marching dutifully back to the malls. Instead, as the first day without shopping stretches into weeks and months, we change the way we make things, organize our lives around new priorities, find different business models for a global culture that has lost its desire to consume. Finally, I look at where this evolution could lead us over decades or even millennia, from a deeper drift into virtual reality to a planet resurgent with nature to a life more simple, perhaps, than we ever thought to seek.

What does it actually mean to “stop shopping”? Sometimes we say we’re “doing the shopping,” which usually means we’re heading out to buy basic necessities, such as food, detergent, school supplies and—of course—toilet paper. At other times we say, “Let’s go shopping,” which often means we are on the hunt for goods that we don’t really need at all. Most of us today live in societies in which social and economic life is organized mainly around consumption: we are consumers. In everyday conversation, however, a “consumer” is often only that person whose favourite pastime is blowing money on clothes, toys, baubles, holidays, fancy food or all of the above. And “consumer culture” is the daily barrage of ads, sales, trends, fast food, fast fashion, distraction and gadgets-of-the-moment that rains down on us, and our preoccupation with all of it.

For the sake of this thought experiment, I wanted to keep it simple: on the day the world stops shopping, global consumer spending drops by 25 percent. To some, that number will seem conservative, given the enormity of the consumer appetite, from Black Friday shopping riots to mighty rivers that endlessly float plastic water bottles to the sea. Indeed, at a global scale, reducing consumption by one-quarter would only turn back the clock to the spending levels of about a decade ago. On the other hand, when I started writing this book, the idea that global consumption could drop by 25 percent sounded like the wildest of speculations—a fantasy so outlandish that many people I hoped to speak to refused even to entertain it.

Then, of course, it happened. A novel coronavirus appeared in China, and in a matter of weeks our collective patterns of earning and spending, of shopping, travelling and dining out at an epic scale, abruptly faltered. In the United States, household spending dropped almost 20 percent across two months; the hardest-hit industries, such as tourism, sank four times as far. In China, retail sales fell by at least one-fifth. In Europe—where personal consumption in many countries tumbled by nearly a third—$450 billion, usually spent on shopping, instead piled up in banks. Suddenly, the idea that consumption might drop by 25 percent on the day the world stops shopping seemed like a reasonable premise: modest enough to be possible, dramatic enough to be earth-shattering.

To call this book a thought experiment is not to say it is science fiction. Maybe you could think of it as a bit of imaginative reporting: it explores a scenario that isn’t real by looking to people, places and times that most certainly are. Throughout history up to the present day, multitudes, sometimes including whole nations, have drastically slowed their consumption. Often the cause was a terrible shock: war, recession, disaster. But there have also been popular movements against materialism, moments of widespread doubt about consumer culture, whole epochs in which weekly sabbaths from commerce were strictly observed. Scholars have pondered the phenomenon of not-shopping, plugged it into computer models, examined it from outer space. They have observed its effects on whales, our moods, the planetary atmosphere. There are entrepreneurs and activists, too, who are designing products, businesses and new ways of life for a world that might one day buy less. From the Kalahari Desert to Finland, from Ecuador to Japan to the United States, I found countercurrents to consumer culture flowing, whispering of other ways we could live. They also flow, I would wager, through most of us.

When I set out to write this book, I had no notion of what I might find. Nothing more, perhaps, than a scattershot of competing visions for how to move past the consumer dilemma, or no way out at all. But as I delved into examples across space and time, I could see that, wherever and whenever humanity has stopped shopping, recurring themes emerge, a pattern that hints at what a world that stops shopping might look like and how it could function. From these shadows past and present, I could sketch a future.

It just might be possible to stop shopping. If so, what remains are more personal questions. Do we want to? Would life really be worse—or better?

close this panel
Resurrecting Retail

Resurrecting Retail

The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World
edition:Hardcover
tagged : retailing
More Info
The Distilleries of Vancouver Island

The Distilleries of Vancouver Island

A Guided Tour of West Coast Craft and Artisan Spirits
edition:eBook
More Info
Show editions

Sub-categories

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...