47 pages 1 hour read

John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor


Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2001

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Overconsumption is a collective phenomenon by which we, as a society, produce, sell, buy, and consume more than we actually need. The negative results of this process—a culture of overwork, environmental waste, widespread lack of personal fulfillment, and health issues—are detailed throughout the book. According to the authors, what lies at the foundation of these complex issues is a simple proposition. If current trends in consumption are harmful and unsustainable, then we are indeed overconsuming as a species and consequently need to change.

This idea is well-encapsulating by the appeal in Chapter 1 to the contrast between the geological age of the earth and the impact of humanity upon it (13-15). Although we have inhabited the planet for a very short segment of its history, we have already profoundly transformed the earth. We are in danger of depleting many of its resources, and have already extinguished numerous other species. This suggests a distinction between the natural course of the earth and the interruption of this course by human beings (sometimes called the Anthropocene by other writers). The evidence suggests that we are using the planet at a rapidly unfeasible rate: the authors claim that it would take the resources of five planets to provide every person on earth with a quality of life comparable to that of the average American (79).