The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves

J.B. MacKinnon. Ecco, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-285602-9

Journalist MacKinnon (The Once and Future World) delivers an intriguing report on the “consumer dilemma”: in order to prevent ecological disaster, humans must significantly reduce their consumption of the planet’s natural resources, yet doing so would be disastrous for the world economy as it’s currently structured. MacKinnon tackles this paradox by drawing on research from the fields of anthropology, psychology, biology, and economics to imagine what would happen if consumer spending suddenly dropped by 25%. A visit to the last U.S. county to enforce “blue laws” banning the sale of most consumer goods on Sundays leads to a discussion of how time seems to “broaden and slow down” when commercial activities cease. MacKinnon also posits a connection between widespread racial justice protests in 2020 and a shift toward “intrinsic values” that occurred as a result of Covid-19 shutdowns, and interviews marine biologists who have studied how slowdowns in human activities have benefited endangered species including the North Atlantic right whale. Though MacKinnon underplays the shocks (unemployment, tax shortfalls, political discord) that such an economic disruption might incur, his thought experiment is well-researched and stimulating. Readers will be galvanized to make changes in their own buying habits. (May)
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