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myth gap

The importance of myths

Prompted by John Fosters’ book After Sustainability, I’ve been doing some reading around myths over the last few days. We usually use the word ‘myth’ to disparagingly describe something that is widely believed, but untrue. I’m interested in myths as underlying stories, broadly held understandings of the world. Myths have an important sociological function, helping […]

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Fixing gadgets with The Restart Project

One of the key ways to reduce our use of materials, and limit the amount we throw away, is to repair things. That’s particularly important in the area of electronics. They require relatively scarce metals, and electronic waste is hazardous and complicated to process, which is why a lot of it ends up in faraway […]

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Book review: Cheaponomics, by Michael Carolan

People have always been suckers for a bargain, but the pressure to deliver cheap prices has become a key driving force of our consumer economy. The prices of many things, from clothes to household appliances, have consistently fallen in recent decades. More and more of us have been able to buy the things we want […]

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Vance Packard’s consumerist utopia

You might not have heard of Vance Packard. He is not well known today, but in 1960 he wrote a book about the onset of consumerism called The Waste Makers. It describes the invention of planned obsolescence and decries the advent of a throwaway society with striking prescience. In the opening of The Waste Makers, […]

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The materialism of developing countries

Do we measure our success by what we own? That’s supposed to be one of the hallmarks of a consumer society, with material possessions giving us our status and identity. But if you ask people if they measure their success by their possessions, the vast majority of British people will say no. That’s according to […]

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Let’s not import Black Friday

Yesterday was Black Friday in America, but if don’t have to be American to have heard of it. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, a holiday for many people, and hence it has become the busiest shopping day of the year. The big stores all capitalise on this with big discounts, encouraging a buying frenzy. We’ve […]

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Project Wild Thing

Child psychologists tell us that outdoor play is important for children’s wellbeing and development, but today’s children spend more time indoors than previous generations. Project Wild Thing is a film that explores our relationship with the outdoors, the technologies and consumerist messages that keep us inside, and how we can reconnect with nature. There is […]

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we have met the enemy

Book review: We have met the enemy

A book about self control sounds pretty worthy, the kind of thing you might need a fair degree of self control to get round to reading in fact. But don’t yield to the temptation to click onto something more exciting just yet – Daniel Akst’s book is a whole lot more fun than you might […]

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Should we stop advertising to children?

Earlier this year, UNICEF released a report into child welfare, ranking 29 developed countries. Britain fared poorly, coming last for access to higher education, 27th for teenage pregnancy and 24th for youth unemployment. The report also says that current policy directions, such as slashing funding for youth services, will make this worse and increase child […]

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Carbon Omissions – the CO2 we’re not counting

There was an event in London last night that I’d have got along to under normal circumstances*  – the launch of Carbon Omissions. It’s a project from the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC), whose previous work includes Climate Safety and the advertising report Think of me as Evil?. Both of those were engaging and thought […]

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