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books - true stories 2008

Not Buying It

My Year Without Shopping

by Judith Levine

from the jacket… disgusted with the commerce in everything from pet cloning to patriotism, panicked over the fate of her finances and that of the trash-strewn earth, Judith Levine enlists her partner, Paul, in a radical experiment to forgo all but the most necessary purchases for an entire year.

my flags…

pg 62 The job of consumer culture (and all culture, in order to see the light of day, must be so some extent commercial culture) is to blur the line between need and want. … we cannot see the model’s eyes, but she is winking at us. For both Target and the consumer know that outside the hard-knocks merchandise in the likes of the Hardwick Gazette, almost nothing that is advertised is actually necessary.

pg 194 But not shopping has also had a paradoxical effect. As our stockpiles of socks and sauces dwindle and the buffers between ourselves and extremity fall, I can see that Paul and I have everything we need. This makes me feel less, not more, afraid. .. Having less, I feel financially more secure this year than I have in decades.

pg 246 UNICEF announces that over half the children in the world – more than a billion kids – suffer extreme deprivation due to war, HIV/AIDS, or poverty. The report notes that global military spending totaled $956 billion this year, while the cost of effectively combating poverty would be $40 – $70 billion. The US spent $450 billion on the military and $15 billion for development help to poor countries, a 30-to-1 ratio.

pg 257 New systems don’t have to be invented. Environmentalists and allied economists have been thinking them up for decades. One of the most prominent of these people is Herman E. Daly, a University of Maryland public affairs professor, former World Bank senior economist, and coiner of the term “steady-state economy”. Such an economy encourages, through tax and regulatory policies, a relatively slow flow of well-made, durable, energy-efficient goods, rather than the breathless production of low-quality, fast-obsolescing, and energy-hungry ones – for example, more bicycles, fewer Hummers. This doesn’t mean economic stasis. Daly distinguishes “development” (making things, and life, better) from “growth” (making more things). A development economy, he says, can thrive inside the finite space of the earth’s environment. A growth economy, by definition, will inevitable outgrow its home.

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