Peak Oil? How about “Peak Stuff”

Photo courtesy of

Many of us have heard of the concept of ‘Peak Oil’, that oil has been tapped to it’s maximum and that global supplies are in decline. I recently read an article about ‘Peak Car’, which said that Americans are driving less now that 10 years ago due to high gas prices as well as choosing to live car free in densified urban settings.

With this in mind I thought it would be both fitting, and ironic given that Xmas shopping is in full swing, to talk about ‘Peak Stuff’, the idea that maybe, just maybe, we don’t need more ‘stuff’.

All you have to do is look at the state of the global economy, with Europe and the U.S. on their way back into recession, to see that people don’t, or soon won’t have the same level of disposable income that they used to. Most Canadians are currently indebted to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. We have known for some time that the ‘Western’ way of life, one of affluence and excess, is not environmentally sustainable at a global level, now we seem to be faced with the reality that it isn’t likely economically sustainable either.

Our cultural brainwashing since World War 2 has told us that our purpose in life is to work hard so we can buy more things. The idea of living within our means and making do with what we have has been an ‘old fashioned’ idea for a couple of generations. Under the influence of the media and peer pressure, the fickle whims of fashion and the planned obsolescence of many items in our day to day, we are constantly reminded that there must be something we need.

Recently there have been ‘buy nothing’ days, weeks, and even months, where individuals are challenged to only buy essentials, aka food, for that given time. I participated in a month of ‘buy nothing’ and was struck by how hard it was to fight the ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ impulse.

As our current society is essentially a ‘Consumerist’ one with the global economy based on the endless need for new things, what happens when the wheels come off the bus and we all decide to live with less?

Header photo courtesy of Ian Muttoo