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Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic Paperback – August 12, 2002
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About the Author
John de Graaf is an independent documentary producer who is the recipient of more than 100 awards for filmmaking, including three Emmy awards. He is currently active in the Happiness Initiative (www.happycounts.org) and is an advisor to the prime minister of Bhutan.
David Wann is the author of ten books on sustainable lifestyles and designs and the producer of twenty-five documentaries, several of them award winners. He codesigned the cohousing neighborhood he lives in and coordinates the community garden.
Thomas H. Naylor is a professor emeritus of economics at Duke University and is the author of over thirty books.
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But I was in the midst of Affluenza so I didn't buy it. Instead I bought and planted flowers and herbs. Ninety five percent of those came in plastic pots. Net/net I am not sure that decision on how to allocate resources was a good one.
And that is the problem in a nutshell. We are faced with thousands of resource allocation decisions every year, and it is impossible to know with any certainty what the right decision is 9/10ths of the time. Do I buy the huge tub of sour cream because it costs less and has less packaging per ounce than the smaller one knowing that I might end up throwing some of the larger one out? And what about the dairy farmer? If we all go vegan, what happens to him? And what happens to the guy who runs the machine that makes all those plastic tubs? I actually stood in the store for several minutes contemplating those questions.
I read the book on my Kindle and I have to wonder what the authors would think about that. Less trees killed for sure, but yet another round of plastic objects which will either (1) have to upgraded the next iteration because at some point, Amazon will stop supporting this version, or (2) fail some day and end up in the landfill or the ocean. Is there a number of books I can read on my Kindle before it dies or becomes obsolete which will cause the ecological cost of my book consumption to tip in favor of the Kindle? I haven't a clue.
There is just too much of everything, and the messages we get about what to do or not do are so mixed there is no making sense of it. Joe Biden says we must spend money to get out of this crisis - should I have bought the shirt? - but we also need to increase our savings - should I not have bought the flowers?
This book frames the issue very well, but I felt it was a little simplistic, tried to cover way too much ground, and was short on real answers, probably because there aren't any. But I have found that just asking the question has changed my behavior. I am consuming far more consciously, and I hope less, which has freed up my time to read more. That has to be good.
Combine a lack of financial education in schools and at home with relentless credit card company marketing, more and more advertising targeted at children, the public's desire to have the latest of everything (driven by relentless marketing on all fronts), and an epidemic results.
In Affluenza, the authors detail America's over consumption of everything, so much in fact, that if every country on earth (probably even just half of them) consumed as much per person as the US, the planet would simply be destroyed. This consumption leads to debt and financial stress, environmental destruction, and a lifestyle that is simply not sustainable. The financial, social, and environmental impacts are tremendous.
There is nothing revolutionary about anything in this book. If you are like most people, you or someone you know suffers at least some of the symptoms, an addiction to shopping, difficulty paying bills (particularly credit card), and a deep down realization that all the stuff you have really doesn't mean much. The book provides a new way to look at mass consumption and realize how it affects ones life.
The book describes the empty world of plenty many Americans live in, as well as the global consequences of unchecked consumption. It also discusses various steps people have taken to simplify their lives (some rather extreme) and how the need to consume is in some ways simply built into the American society - like that 400+ a month most of us have to spend on a car to get back and forth to work so we have the cash to pay for the car.
Pick up a copy of the book and find a nice spot in the beautiful outdoors to go relax and enjoy it. If this book is up your alley you may also be interested in "Credit Card Nation" and "Fast Food Nation". Each covers a specific segment of Affluenza.
And all of our purchases have made us the happiest people on earth, right?
This book addresses the symptoms, the causes and the treatment for AFFLUENZA - a "disease" resulting from overconsumption. It takes a good, hard look at what our addiction to "things" is doing to our lives and the lives of our families; to our culture and our communities, and to our planet. The authors provide some good suggestions at the end of the book for overcoming AFFLUENZA - or if not overcoming - at least for beginning the process of healing. Some ideas such as simplifying our lifestyles and starting community groups to share ideas and assist one another are within our reach. Other ideas though, such as flexible work reduction and work sharing, while honorable goals will take more time. When people are working two or three jobs just to survive, and under the current political leadership, the dream of more leisure time is still a long way off.
There is a lot to this book. It could change your life. I should also add that I enjoyed the illustrations by David Horsey.