The Day the World Stops Shopping – Review

The Day the World Stops Shopping: How ending consumerism gives us a better life and a greener world, by J.B. Mackinnon, June 2021. Bodley Head, ISBN 9781847925480. RRP £20 hardback (paperback published June 2022)

The Day the World Stops Shopping is described as a thought experiment, exploring the dilemma between the destruction of consumerism and the destruction of the global economy that depends upon it. It is both a geographical and a philosophical journey, exploring many cultures and ideas.

The Prologue begins in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia among the Ju ‘hoansi  people and their “running below capacity” lifestyle. This contrasts starkly with North America and Europe., where the ‘greening’ of consumerism has not led to a decline in consumption. First Days, explores consumption decrease and its impact on others, particularly in poorer countries which produce the goods we consume and which bear the devastating effects of production in environmental destruction, ill-health and worker exploitation. He analyses the concept of “sabbath’, concluding that Sunday closing would result in a 15% drop in shopping time and hence emissions, as well as an experience of slowed time.

The next section, Collapse, looks at modelling that predicts what happens when we stop shopping. A fascinating chapter on The Finnish Depression of the 1990s describes how Finns adapted without societal collapse. This is contrasted with the Soviet Union’s  economic and social hardships, although there too, many adapted to self-sufficiency.  Adaptation examines durability versus ‘inbuilt obsolescence’, exploring both fast fashion in Bangladesh and the dilemmas of high-end ethical clothing producers.  The circular economy and  recycled materials are part of the answer, with enough end-of-use textiles available, that oil and cotton need not be used again. Long-term family business models, prevalent in Japan, suggest that values and continuity are more important than expansion, while organisations like Every One Every Day in Dagenham help forge participatory identities beyond that of consumer. Mackinnon analyses system-led inconspicuous consumption, where ‘normal life’ means changing expectations of comfort, cleanliness and convenience; new norms of higher consumption. He examines ‘moral licensing’ where good behaviour justifies the bad, such as fuel efficiency leading to more driving. ‘Sufficiency behaviour’ he suggests, is the arrival at a sense of ‘enoughness.’

The final section, Transformation, paints a hopeful picture of a world that has given up on over-consumption., with more habitats for wild things and more wonder for us. Mackinnon looks in detail at what happens when an area, like the Japanese island of Sado, becomes less populous and affluent, with Nature thriving and people living contented lives. A return to the Ju’hoani  and their simpler, sharing lifestyle, holds out hope for us all. The author’s Epilogue details the changes he has made in his own life but warns that de-consumption requires change beyond the individual, including Lifespan labelling, job-sharing, redistribution of wealth, a basic income and technological solutions.  We have the means to solve the consumer dilemma.

This book is a truly wonderful read, a real page-turner that was impossible to put down. It is non-fiction, but reads like a picaresque travel tale, full of wonderful characters and interesting places.  It is not a Christian book as such, but is filled with humility, humanity and a deep spirituality.  I highly commend it as a must-read for 2022, particularly for GC members involved with Joy in Enough, for whom this could be the go-to handbook.

Linda Wickham



Author: Ed Beale | Date: 29 April, 2022 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0

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