Review by Mother nature of father greed

Jun 30, 2011

By Sudhirendar Sharma,


In challenging the widespread notion that the billions of people in Asia should aspire to an American way of life, Chandran Nair admits that Consumptionomics may not have all the answers to the question the book poses on consumption-led capitalism. Yet, it convincingly argues that Asia cannot have its cake and eat it too!

The prospect of a prosperous Asia is nonetheless exciting; however, it is this part of the world that has the greatest potential to impose stress on our planet if it decides to opt for a consumption-driven model of growth. Sample this: if Asia were to consume as much electricity as Europe – 150 kilowatt hours/ person/ day – it would use nine times energy as America consumes now.

There is no reason why Asians should not attain the living standards of their American counterparts but that can in no way be at the risk of earth’s annihilation! Nair proposes that Asia is perhaps now, given its stage of development and the harsh realities it faces, most suited to freeing capitalism from being the captive it has become of free market fundamentalists and ideologues.

Consumption-driven capitalism has driven countries in the region to a situation wherein people have mobile phones and falling water tables as well as broadband internet and rising level of greenhouse gas emissions. Without question, the growth-obsessed model has delivered short-term wealth to a minority; with a long term misery to all.

Nair calls it the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the model the West has pedaled to Asia. Such a perception, howsoever incisive, will be contested by business and its cheerleaders. Unless the policymakers and academia rise to the occasion, the radical shift Consumptionomics proposes will be trivialized by the vested interests to defend their short-term agendas.

If that all sounds a bit far-fetched, so be it! Unless Asia chooses local development rather than urbanization, the mother earth will be at the mercy of father greed argues Nair. Overtly provocative, the strength of the book lies in it helping readers ask the ‘right questions’.

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