I’m only a few pages in and already excited. The authors Robert and Edward Skidelsky (father and son), hit the nail on the head for me when they write:
“To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is like saying that my aim in eating is to get fatter and fatter.”
Indeed. And this:
“The irony is... that now that we have at last achieved abundance, the habits bred into us by capitalism have left us incapable of enjoying it properly.”
I also came across this short video recently, from The Centre for a New American Dream, which illustrates (quite literally) how, I believe, we really want to live. Deep down, at a guttural level, don’t we all want to have more time to spend with friends and family, doing the things we love doing, doing things that are meaningful and purposeful, having fun, connecting – really connecting – with the people and places around us?
The gist of the Plenitude Economy outlined in the video is this...
We can’t save the world by buying things. We can’t buy our way out of our unhappiness and our environmental problems.
Which happens to line up nicely with this next key point:
We live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. Yet our consumption (over consumption) is squandering the earth’s natural resources and f*ing things up for our planet. And, in the end, making us unhappy and sick.
So perhaps the key is to say “STOP”. Let’s reassess what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Let’s commit to breaking this vicious cycle of overconsumption and overwork (that sadly resides alongside underemployment and poverty) and say enough is enough.
The video and the book poke at the same answers:
- We need to work less. 4 days, 3 days.
- Working less would free up more time to live our lives in a way that doesn’t impact so heavily on the environment. We know for a fact that carbon emissions go up when working hours go up.
- Working less give us more time to do meaningful, life-assuring things, like growing our own food, DIY-ing, building relationships, building communities... these are also the things that make us happy.
- Working less would see us consuming less, which would ease the pressure off resources. We know material goods don’t make us happy anyway.
I know this works because I recently scaled back my working hours, down to 3 days. It’s forcing me (in a good way) to consume less, be more creative and make better use of the stuff I do have. Actually, it’s forcing me (again, in a good way) to be happy (grateful?) with the stuff I do have. Since going part-time:
- I haven’t purchased anything I didn’t truly need (besides two books, but I rationalise books that enrich my mind and soul).
- I’m not wasting anything at home. I’ve taken to freezing produce a lot more so I can avoid food wastage.
- If something breaks, I don’t go out and buy a new one. When our fridge malfunctioned a while back, we got it fixed, even though the fridge is old and ugly.
- I don’t buy bottled drinks, and I make more of an effort to pack food from home to eat at work. And the meals I’m eating are simpler (still delicious) with less meat and more veg (which is key to good health and longevity).
- I was given a sewing machine for my birthday a little while ago. I can’t actually sew yet, but a lesson or two and I’ll be making my own clothing in no time ;)
- I'm becoming more mindful, more... philosophical, if you like. For instance, I've stopped flicking on the ducted heating to warm the house, and instead put on more clothes. I figure this doesn't just save resources and money, but it makes me more appreciative of my clothes and the hard work that went into producing them (thanks farmers, designers and clothes-stichers).
You get the gist.
What do you think of all this? Do you agree that cutting ‘normal’ working hours to a 3 or 4 day week would help us overcome some of the challenges we face today, like overwork, underemployment, overconsumption, poor wellbeing and environmental pollution?
What do you do to consume less?
And, has anyone started on the book?
If you haven't got yourself a copy of the book yet, or you're not really sure you want to, you might like to opt for reading this free publication instead, which is in the same vein as the book, by the New Economics Foundation, in the UK. It's free to download (scroll down to bottom of their page).