Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shadows of Consumption

In this economy and holiday season, we're all thinking about how our consumption is affecting our lives.

Peter Dauvergne, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has a new book linking consumer culture to the environment. Here's the description. Enjoy:

What are the environmental consequences of rising consumption? To answer this, Peter Dauvergne will present his just-published book The Shadows of Consumption (MIT Press), which explores five very different histories: automobiles; gasoline; refrigerators; beef; and harp seals. For centuries, the direct consequences of consuming have been degrading local ecosystems; but, as these histories show, this is just a fraction of the costs. With increasing intensity and range, he will argue, the globalization of “unbalanced” corporations, trade, and financing is casting shadows of consumption, displacing much of the costs of supplying consumers into distant places and times. Such a process of change obscures responsibility for resulting global patterns of harm, stimulates wasteful consumption among the wealthy, and exposes all consumers to health risks. Over time the environmental costs tend to drift into ecosystems and onto people without the power to resist, tipping into crisis, for example, the rainforests of Brazil, the Pacific Ocean, the Inuit in the Arctic, the poor of sub-Saharan Africa, and future generations.

This analysis, he will further argue, helps to explain why so many of the efforts to manage the global environment are failing even as environmentalism is slowly strengthening. Years of consultation are necessary to transform the consequences of consumption. As a way to begin, he will discuss the value of a guiding principle of “balanced consumption,” both for consumers and the global political economy.

1 comment:

geojames said...

Great book. Nice balance of prodding us to consider the ecological consequences of our own consumption habits and imploring us to press for changes in how these ecologically minded production shifts should progress. The five case studies illustrate well the networks of power responsible for changes to systems of production and our habits of consumption. Further, we begin to see what role we as individuals might play in this process.