‘Community not consumerism’ is the key to sustainable living, says academic due to visit Suffolk

Alistair Macintosh Pic: V�r�ne Nicolas

Alistair Macintosh Pic: V�r�ne Nicolas - Credit: Archant

Rediscovering a sense of community is key to rejecting consumerism and living sustainably, according to an academic due to give a keynote speech at an environmental conference in Suffolk next month.

The Small Earth conference is due to take place at Snape Maltings this November Pic: Philip Vile

The Small Earth conference is due to take place at Snape Maltings this November Pic: Philip Vile - Credit: Archant

Dr Alistair Macintosh will be presenting at the Small Earth conference set to take place at Snape Maltings from November 8 to 11. The event aims to bring together psychotherapists, ecologists, economists and philosophical and spiritual thinkers to discuss how society can become sustainable and “return to living within the terms of Earth’s ecosphere”.

“I define consumerism as consuming in excess of what is needed for a dignified life - once we start buying things for status or because we are bored there is an impact that is not just a matter of the environment and economics but of our psychology and spirituality,” said Mr Macintosh.

“It’s like the song ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ - consumerism offers only diminishing returns - the more you buy, the less satisfied you become. It’s something that is afflicting affluent parts of the West and is not only taking away from our happiness but also damaging the planet.”

Mr Macintosh will be travelling to the three-day event in Suffolk from Scotland where he is an honorary senior research fellow at the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow and an honorary fellow at the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a former director for the Centre for Human Ecology.


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He continued: “Ecology is about the study of plant and animal communities and human ecology also looks at people in their communities. One reason why many people in Britain are unhappy with their lot is that we have seen a breakdown of these communities where we find meaning and love - and instead people look to accumulate status symbols.

“I see this conference being about people coming together and looking for solutions break this cycle. People need to understand what is happening to them - we have all been lulled by advertising, which has hooked into our deep psychology, so we think it is normal that we should want to exceed our needs.”

Mr Macintosh believes helping people rather than always looking to buy the next thing will not only

Mr Macintosh believes helping people rather than always looking to buy the next thing will not only help us psychologically but is also kinder to the environment Pic: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Mr Macintosh said building a community can start with simple gestures and acts such as helping people with their bags at train stations, leaving notes for neighbours or letting people out in traffic queues.

“It’s about looking out for one another and being human,” he continued.

“Without thrusting yourself too much on people, its about thinking about how you can contribute to the wellbeing of this place - you are never short of things to look out for once you start thinking in this way.

“When you are driving, for instance, do you let people in or do you push aggressively? You may get there a few minutes earlier but look at the trail of disappointment you might leave. Making a community starts with simple things like this.”

He added: “Once you start making connections and showing common decency, you start getting a sense of belonging, a sense of worth, and it’s no longer about having the latest trainers or a flashy car.”

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