We can’t stop shopping. And yet we must. This is the consumer dilemma that noted author J.B. MacKinnon is addressing in this special Department of Writing Orion Lecture.

Join us at 2:30pm Tuesday, Oct 19, as MacKinnon speaks to Writing students and the general public. You can watch online via Zoom webinar or attend in-person by registering here.

To consume or not to consume

The economy says we must always consume more: even the slightest drop in spending leads to widespread unemployment, bankruptcy and home foreclosure.

The planet says we consume too much: in North America, we burn the earth’s resources at a rate five times faster than it can regenerate. And despite efforts to “green” our consumption—by recycling, increasing energy efficiency, or using solar power—we have yet to see a decline in global carbon emissions.

These are the core issues at work in MacKinnon’s latest book, The Day the World Stops Shopping. A thought experiment that imagines what would happen—to our economies, our products, our planet, our selves—if we committed to consuming far fewer of the Earth’s resources.

Can we really stop shopping?

“What would really happen if we simply stopped shopping?” MacKinnon asks. “Is there a way to reduce our consumption to earth-saving levels without triggering economic collapse?”

The answers to this apparently simple question took him around the world, seeking answers from America’s big-box stores to the hunter-gatherer cultures of Namibia to communities in Ecuador that consume at an exactly sustainable rate.

Then the thought experiment came shockingly true: the coronavirus brought shopping to a halt, and MacKinnon’s ideas were tested in real time.

An award-winning author

The author of five books of nonfiction, MacKinnon is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic and Atlantic, as well as the Best American Science and Nature Writing.

His previous works are The Once and Future World, a bestseller about rewilding the natural world; The 100-Mile Diet(with Alisa Smith), widely recognized as a catalyst of the local foods movement; I Live Here (with Mia Kirshner and artists Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge), about displaced people; and Dead Man in Paradise, the story of a priest assassinated in the Dominican Republic, which won Canada’s highest prize for literary nonfiction.

Drawing from experts in fields ranging from climate change to economics, MacKinnon investigates how living with less would change our planet, our society, and ourselves. Along the way, he reveals just how much we stand to gain: An investment in our physical and emotional wellness. The pleasure of caring for our possessions. Closer relationships with our natural world and one another.

Imaginative and inspiring, The Day the World Stops Shopping will embolden you to envision another way.