The end of consumerism: Our way of life is 'not viable'

New report says we must embrace a basic future to survive

A A A

Ditch the dog; throw away (sorry, recycle) those takeaway menus; bin bottled water; get rid of that gas-guzzling car and forget flying to far-flung places. These are just some of the sacrifices we in the West will need to make if we are to survive climate change.

The stark warning comes from the renowned Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based organisation regarded as the world's pre-eminent environmental think tank.

Its State of the World 2010 report published this week outlines a blueprint for changing our entire way of life. "Preventing the collapse of human civilisation requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns. This transformation would reject consumerism... and establish in its place a new cultural framework centred on sustainability," states the report.

"Habits that are firmly set – from where people live to what they eat – will all need to be altered and in many cases simplified or minimised... From Earth's perspective, the American or even the European way of life is simply not viable."

Nobel prize winner and microfinance expert Muhammad Yunus, writing in the foreword, describes the report as calling for "one of the greatest cultural shifts imaginable: from cultures of consumerism to cultures of sustainability".

Almost seven billion people are demanding ever greater quantities of material resources, decimating the world's richest ecosystems, and dumping billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

And any actions taken by governments, or scientific advances to deal with climate change, are doomed to failure unless individuals get back to a basic way of life, concludes the report – which recommends things like borrowing books and toys from libraries instead of buying them, choosing public transport over the car, and growing food in community gardens. In addition, all products should be designed to last a lifetime and be completely recyclable.

A seismic shift in thinking is needed, according to senior researcher Erik Assadourian, project director of the report: "Making policy and technology changes while keeping cultures centred on consumerism and growth can only go so far. To thrive long into the future, human societies must shift their cultures so sustainability becomes the norm."

But the report's findings were attacked last night by Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. "Let's face it, by 2050, the combined population of China and India alone will have grown to three billion. By then, most Chinese and Indians will have adopted an urban lifestyle. This... makes demands for radical curbs in consumerism and CO2 emissions utterly unrealistic."

People need to be persuaded of the benefits of tackling climate change, rather than be presented with a "defeatist and doomsday scenario", according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). "Questions around consumption are not so much about the rate of it, but the fact that the full environmental impacts are not yet fully reflected inwhat is consumed... until environmental impacts are fully factored in, we need behaviours and/or production methods to change," said a DECC spokes-man.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits