Inconveniencing Myself and Reducing Consumption


As people are overworked and seek greater and greater degrees of 'productivity' there's an ever-greater need for 'lifehacks' and conveniences to make life bearable. For folk that are overworked, convenience defines many people's work, social and 'free time.' Smart phones enable this to a large degree. Other conveniences are the US food delivery ecosystem; personal transportation via app; meal delivery 'kits'; Zooming versus meeting in-person; texting vs talking; dog walking via service workers; robot food delivery; ordering via touchscreen; fast food (bowls) versus cooking at home. This list could obviously go on and on.

Lots of people on Gemini and the smol web choose personal forms of digital minimalism such as command line computing, using previous-generation computers, and eschewing modern web computing stacks such as Javascript. Reading physical books versus reading little hits of articles online or social media feeds would be another example of trying to move toward a slow tech approach. About a decade ago perhaps was the rise in popularity or at least trending of articles on the slow food movement, which did seem to decelerate some parts of the fast, unhealthy, unsustainable trends of food consumption, at least on a small scale. I've often wondered in the past how to build a movement around reducing consumption. It's not sexy, per se. It doesn't roll off the tongue. Today I heard a news report on a possible crisis relating to semi-conductors (for some reason, prompting me to think about the CollapseOS project). Should there be a conflict with China then global tech production (including all devices, including cars) would be affected. An international recession would likely occur. There are folks that rue how all new cars are wheeled computers. Consumption is built into the very essence of our modern civilization; if we're not expanding production, and consuming, then we're recessing!

Can we imagine re-making large parts of society not just around performatively reducing consumption the way we perform recycling in the US but around actual largescale personal and societal reductions in consumption? What would a social movement around reducing consumption look like? Of course my utopian view is a non-hierarchical anarchist type reduction of corporate products overall, but I'd even be curious if there's a co-optable vision of reducing consumption. At one point I was more involved in activities like Food Not Bombs, free stores, free schools, dumpstering and the like. In other ways, I still have a minimal amount of personal consumption (no car, don't buy much, try to reduce water usage and mostly cook vegetables), but my guess is that I still use many more resources than folks in other countries, and that my own contributions are more performative than substantial. My fear is there's not a significant way for widescale meaningful reduction in consumption by corporate brands because that's unlikely to bring them more income. But I'm also interested in what a mass movement around reducing consumption would look like.

Some current stirrings of a mass movement popular around me:

What else am I missing? Hopefully a lot.

What else is needed:

I don't see much of a wide movement around this right now.

What can artists do to support such a movement?

What can tech workers, open source contributors, makers, do?

What new organizations and communities can form or re-make themselves?

Individuals can make plans to reduce their consumption. I shall set a personal plan regarding consuming clothes (buying used, learning sachiko patching).

Communities (religious, club, topic-based, etc) can form sharing communities and better hand-me-down protocols.

Civic institutions can pass legislation to reward re-use, maintenance and to penalize consumption. (This feels hardest to do, but would definitely face more calls to implement if a wide community and social movement comes to pass).

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I agree with many of your prescriptions, and that it would be good to see something that feels like a "wide movement" in support for degrowth. You might be interested in

this piece from my friend Ben:

Left To Our Own Devices -Degrowther