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Last Saturday we were expecting a showing of the film "The Economics of Happiness" at the Pickford Cinema. Unfortunately the film didn't show up to the theater, but fortunately they had an older film on hand - "Affluenza." 

Affluenza is a 1 hour PBS documentary that was made by KCTS in Seattle about 12 to 14 years ago, exploring the high social and environmental costs of materialism and over-consumption.   From the Website, http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/:

 



Af-flu-en-za

n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.

 


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The Simpler Way is a concept of Ted Trainer, Australian energy analyst, and author of the book "Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society."  The Simpler Way is an antidote to Affluenza and its consequences. 

 

From the Simpler Way website,  http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/:

 


We cannot achieve a sustainable and just world order unless we change to,


- Simpler lifestyles, much less production and consumption, much less concern with luxury, affluence, possessions and wealth.

- Small, highly self-sufficient local economies, largely independent of the global economy.


- More cooperative and participatory ways, enabling people in small communities to take control of their own development.


- A new economy, one not driven by profit or market forces, and a zero-growth or steady-state overall economy, which produces much less than the present economy.


- Some very different values, especially cooperation not competition, and frugality and self-sufficiency not acquisitiveness and consuming.


The Simpler Way is about ensuring a very high quality of life for all without anywhere near as much production, consumption, exporting, investment, resource use, environmental damage, work etc. as ther e is now. There are many rich alternative sources of satisfaction other than material acquisition and consuming. Consider having much time for arts and crafts and personal growth, living in a rich and supportive community, having to go to work for money only two days a week, living in a diverse and productive leisure-rich landscape, having socially worthwhile and enjoyable work with no fear of unemployment...and knowing you are not contributing to global problems. There is no need to sacrifice modern technology to achieve these benefits.

 

The fate of the planet depends on whether initiatives such as the Transition Towns movement can provide many impressive examples of sustainable, just and pleasant ways showing people in consumer society that there is a better way.

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Comment by David MacLeod on May 10, 2011 at 12:35pm

Juliet,

Sounds a bit idealistic, doesn't it? I haven't delved deeply into Trainers ideas and proposals, but enough to know he's a numbers guy and doesn't put his faith in any solutions that promise we can continue to live with consumerist values and continuous growth.  His most recent paper is a critique of the WWF "Energy Report."

 

For housing, he recommends cheap, earth built houses, and in general writes a lot about how cheaply we could live.  His 8 page "The Way I Live" is here.  

Comment by Juliet Thompson on May 9, 2011 at 10:58pm

David,

Even though this film was shown on short notice, and was not what we had expected, it was great, and the discussion afterwards was invigorating. To see how much people care and are trying, yet feel that they can only go so far is really interesting. Our housing costs seem to be the next item, next to food, that keep us from approaching the type of community that you describe (or is described) in the next to last paragraph. How do we move our housing costs from being a source of stress to a perpetually affordable, sustainable source from which to grow the life you describe?

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