Affluenza

From the Fellowship for Intentional Community Bookstore: 

AFFLUENZA: The All-Consuming Epidemic
by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor
2005 * 300 pages * paperback

Many books make you think the author has crammed everything he or she knows into it. The feeling you get reading this one is quite different; the authors appear well-read, well-rounded, and
intelligent, knowledgeable beyond the content of their book but
smart enough to realize that we need a short, sharp jolt to
recognize our current ailment. The definition of affluenza,
according to the three authors is something akin to “a painful,
contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt,
anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”
It’s a powerful virus running rampant in our society, infecting
our souls, affecting our wallets and financial well-being, and
threatening to destroy not only the environment but also our
families and communities.

Having begun life as two PBS programs co-produced by John de
Graaf, this book takes a hard look at the symptoms of affluenza,
the history of its development into an epidemic, and the options
for treatment. In examining this pervasive disease in an age when “the urge to splurge continues to surge,” the first section is
the book’s most provocative. According to figures the authors
quote and expound upon, Americans each spend more than $21,000per year on consumer goods, our average rate of saving has fallenfrom about 10 percent of our income in 1980 to zero in 2000, our credit card indebtedness continues to grow to monstrous proportions, more people are filing for bankruptcy each year than graduate from college, and we spend more for trash bags than 90 of the world’s 210 countries spend for everything.

“To live, we buy,” explain the authors—everything from food and
good sex to religion and recreation—all the while squelching our
intrinsic curiosity, self-motivation, and creativity. They offer
historical, political, and socioeconomic reasons that affluenza
has taken such strong root in our society, and in the final
section, offer practical ideas for change. We are introduced to
real people who have taken steps to turn their lives around and
live more sustainably. Solutions offered range from making simple
habit alterations to taking into account more in-depth
environmental considerations, and from living lightly to managing
resources responsibly.

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