Ten years ago on Buy Nothing Day we were awaiting the release of Naomi Klein's No Logo. Definitive in nature, it captured the meaning in a growing rejection of marketing, brands and over-consumption. And reflected the growing movement to create a world of individuals with control over government processes.
But even the numerous tomes of anti-consumption had their problems. As authors Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter pointed out in The Rebel Sell, Klein's book opens with her description of her Spadina neighbourhood, how collective it was, individual and away from the mainstream, words that authors Heath and Potter believe allowed corporations to begin to commodify counter-culture. Corporations stole the counter culture and sold it back to us.
And we see a similar process beginning today. As concern over climate change began to manifest, corporate branding turned green, selling us on organic and sustainable products that use fewer chemicals, and produce fewer hydrocarbons in their production. But no branding tried to sell us less. And as author and physicist George Monbiot points out, “giving things up is an essential component of going green. Eco-consumerism will not save the world.” There must be an end to consumer culture itself.
So perhaps it's fitting on Buy Nothing Day to reflect on our actual consumer culture and take action ourselves, as Naomi Klein said, against the “Brand Bullies.”
Complementing Buy Nothing Day is Make Something Day. A reminder we don't have to accept the world set out for us, but create it. Stop simply consuming and make something. And the key within it is take action.
Where do books fit within it all? As Naomi Klein's No Logo, and George Monbiot's Heat they help to define where we're at and where we need to go.
On Buy Nothing Day we can look to source them as a source of inspiration for creating our own lifestyles to live outside the consumer culture. They can also teach us how to actually do things, make the things we'll need to replace the consumption we currently feed on. Since we'll be sacrificing more products, we're going to have to start creating our own, and an upcoming book, Thrifty, looks at how we can live frugally but live more richly. And as Buy Nothing Day reminds us to get out of the malls, Make Something Day calls on us to learn something new, pick up our cookbooks, craft guides, sewing manuals and figure out how to make that thing we always suspected we could. A lesson we'll have to learn as we look to sacrificing our consumer comforts to make way for a radical sustainable way of living.
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