Wednesday, 18 January 2012

we've got all the stuff we need, thanks very much

a piece in Le Monde today caught my attention.  It's here (in French) and it refers to a report that the British have now got all the consumer goods and possessions they need.  That a "peak" of consumption was reached a few years ago, and now the British are buying less stuff, using less energy, producing less rubbish, and so on.  It has been shown historically that this does happen in cycles.  I suspect that this has less to do with people having all the stuff they think they need than with changes in the way consumption is done.  After all, I didn't know until fairly recently that I needed a Kindle, but now I do.  But I scarcely buy paper books any more, and I used to buy them quite often, which meant that someone worked a fork-lift truck in a warehouse and someone else drove a van to deliver the book to a shop or another warehouse, and a postman delivered it to me, or I got on a bus and went to a shop and bought it, paying a human assistant for my purchase, and then I went to IKEA and bought some shelves to put the books on.  Pretty much all this stuff now happens electronically for me, and I am quite sure that the people who make that purchase happen are fewer in number and with more specialised skills than before.  And think on - I was struck by a shot in the (rather wonderful despite what most of the critics have said) film 'The Iron Lady' set in the 1970s.  The lights went out, as I remember them doing then, and the Cabinet was plunged into darkness.  Margaret Thatcher triumphantly pulled a torch out of her handbag and lit up the proceedings.  If the lights go out I can read print books by candlelight, but after a few hours my Kindle and iPad are useless.  And I remember the 1970s, so I always have candles and matches where I can lay my hands on them in the dark.  That doesn't mean I should stick to print.  It just means things are different.

Do we have all the stuff we need?  If you work at home, these days, you don't really need a home office.  No big printer, no fax machine, no tower for your computer's hard drive.  You don't even need to be at home.  Your notebook computer, or even your phone, is good enough for most kinds of work.  The newest workplaces don't even have offices.  People just work where they are.  So that's Less Stuff.  My daughter has just moved house, and she and her family now live in what was built about 20 years ago as a work unit, in south London.  But nobody wanted to rent small purpose-built work units.  So it has been converted into a charming, spacious, light and airy maisonette.  And guess what, my daughter sometimes works there when she works from home.

What do readers think?  I couldn't find anything on this subject in English, but I'm sure there are other articles.  Home computers and then the internet were supposed to enable us to work anywhere, so we would live in cottages in Wales.  But we don't.  We live, increasingly, in cities, and the article in Le Monde suggests that it is this too which helps reduce consumption - because greater interconnectedness, which urban populations have, means less need for resources - cars, home and garden maintenance and so on.

Would welcome developing this notion a bit further.  Clever people out there to help?

Oh, and here is a Kindle book for you.


Anonymous said...

Jane Griffiths said...

ugh, that's why I didn't see it. It notes this, which Le Monde didn't:

Earlier this year, writer Mark Lynas caused a stir with his book The God Species, in which he broke a trio of green taboos by calling for environmentalists to embrace GM foods, nuclear power and growth-based capitalism.

Which, of course, must be done.

Jonathan said...

Whether or not you can "work anywhere" depends on what you are doing.

In your job, translating EU documents, I guess you could do that anywhere with a computer and internet connection. If your job involves making things or going round fixing things, then it is a lot more difficult to do that over the internet

Jane Griffiths said...

absolutely Jonathan, which is why I raised the point. Oh and do be careful, I am NOT a translator, and my job has NOTHING to do with the EU. I would actually rather like to work remotely, but my job does not permit me to do so.

Anonymous said...

Are there problems with council taxes, energy bills and other red tape if one's home is one's workplace?

Jane Griffiths said...

depends what you mean by "problems"