Somebody Else’s Problem
Consumerism, Sustainability and Design

Paper: 978 1 78353 491 3 / $39.95
Published: November 2016  

Cloth: 978 1 78353 503 3 / $120.00
Published: March 2017  

Publisher: Greenleaf
360 pp., 6 1/8" x 9 1/5"
Winner of the Gold Award in AXIOM Business Book Awards' Philanthropy/Nonprofit/Sustainability category.

Consumerism involves a unique way of thinking that promises a shortcut to a "better" life, obtained through a continuous process of accumulating certain fashionable goods and services. Over the last few decades, this has resulted in a rising tide of cheap, short-lived goods produced, used and discarded in increasingly rapid cycles, along the way depleting resources and degrading environmental systems.

Somebody Else’s Problem calls for a radical change in how we think about our material world, and how we design, make and use the products and services we need. Rejecting the idea that individuals alone are responsible for the environmental problems we face, it challenges us to look again at the systems we take for granted in daily life, and their cumulative role in our environmental crisis.

The author presents an overview of the main forces giving rise to modern consumerism, looks more closely at today’s accelerating consumption patterns, and asks why older, more custodial patterns of consumption are in decline. The author concludes with a recommendation of new ways of designing, making and using goods and services that can reduce our excess consumption, but still contribute to a good and meaningful life.

Table of Contents:
Foreword by Stuart Walker


Part I: Parallel Histories: The Development of Consumerism and Design

1: From Access to Excess: Consumerism and the Birth of Modern

2: The Rise of the Consumer Citizen: Democracy, Mass-Consumption and Design

3: Becoming Modern: Expanding Systems of Compulsory Mass-Consumption

4: The Power of Choice: Heroic Individualism and Self-Expression in Consumption

Part II: The Practice of Unsustainable Consumption and Design

5: Identity and Meaning: Creating the Future through Consumerism

6: Positional Consumption, Reputation and the Promise of Excess

7: Acceleration and the Eclipse of Relationship in Instant Transaction

8: Misrepresenting Nature through Marketing, Media and Technology

Part III: Designing for Sustainability and Sustainable Consumption

9: Ethical Intentions and Frames: Designing for Well-Being

10: Values, Media, Marketing and Behaviour Change

11: Co-Designing Relationships for Sustainable Consumption

12: Designing and Making a Low Carbon Future