In Our Hands
In Our Hands
Ep. 5. Juliet Schor on Connected Consumption

Ep. 5. Juliet Schor on Connected Consumption

Ramanan Raghavendran interviews Juliet Schor about social norms and the motives behind consumption.

No transcript...

In this episode, Ramanan speaks with Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College. They discuss “growth at all costs,” changing behavior in the top 10 percent, the gig economy, and grassroots momentum. Time stamps and the full transcript are below. This episode is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

In Our Hands is a production of Amasia. Follow these links for more about our firm, the Amasia blog, our climate fiction podcast, and Ramanan’s blog.

Thanks for listening! Subscribe here for future episodes.

Show Notes

[00:00:16] Introduction

[00:06:50] “Growth At All Cost” Mentality

[00:13:58] Behavior Change in the Top 10%

[00:19:55] Gig Economy Research

[00:27:59] Grassroots Momentum

[00:33:36] Like-Minded Social Groups

[00:00:16] Ramanan Raghavendran: Hello, everyone, I'm speaking with Dr. Juliet Schor. She is a professor of Sociology at Boston College and a leading expert, which is kind of an understatement here, in Consumption, Labor, Economics and Sustainable Behavior Patterns.

All things of very high interest to Amasia and to me. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard for 17 years. She is a former Guggenheim and Brookings Institution fellow. She's a co-founder and former board member of the Center for New American dream, which is a national sustainability organization, and is the Vice Chair of the board of the better future project, which is one of the country's most successful climate activism organizations.

She has also served as a trustee of Wesleyan, her alma mater, and her undergraduate alma mater, and has lectured widely throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, through a variety of civic business, labor and academic groups. She appears frequently on national and international media, and has served as a consultant of UN at the World Institute for Development Economics Research and to the UNDP. So, Juliet, thank you very much for consenting to chat with me in our ongoing series.

And I'll begin with question one. One of my goals in these short interviews is to humanize science and research. Can you walk us through your life and your career, which is so illustrious, but has curved in so many interesting ways, and what led you to make the choices that you have?

[00:01:40] Juliet Schor: Yeah. There's a way in which I feel like I actually never made choices, I just sort of float along a river, but I was always pretty oriented to school and academics. In college, I studied Economics and Philosophy, because those seem to me to be the subjects that were most relevant for making change in the world and that's what I was interested in. From a very young age, I had been involved in various kinds of political activities. I did a lot of work for the United Farm Workers Union and anti-war activities during the Vietnam War, and so forth. And so, I was really, thought of myself as what we now would call a change agent.

So, to understand the world, I thought, Philosophy and Economics and I was sort of drawn more to Economics and went on to graduate school. At that time. I mean, this is sort of unusual, I think. At that time, I entered... I had finished college very young, and I just sort of felt like I just need to learn and I'm going to graduate school just to learn, not because I want to be a professor. But then, I got very socialized into the academic life, so I came out on the other side as a professor. I think it was more just looking up to the people I studied with. They were some brilliant people who were also very politically engaged. And I've always had a life in which I do scholarly work but also, I do a lot of activism.

And that's been from the very beginning. Whether it's through writings, through organizations that you mentioned a few that I've co-founded or that I'm working pretty intensively with. So, it was just a lifelong orientation to using knowledge and using scholarly activity to inform what I'm doing in the world.

[00:03:37] Ramanan Raghavendran: So, I have a quick follow on question to that before we start digging into your research, and we'll come back, I think, to some of the activism in a bit. I'll never forget reading a biography of the Indian American physicist, Chandrasekhar, where he basically said, "Every 10 years, I write a masterpiece on what I've been doing for 10 years and then I forget completely about it, and move on to the next research topic that is of interest to me." And you've written numerous books on related, but different things as you've gone along. Is your approach a little similar? "I have now mastered this subject, and now I move on."

[00:04:15] Juliet Schor: Yes and I'm not sure it's the best approach for contemporary, academia, but I do. I sort of, so I wrote The Overworked American, that was the first solo book that I wrote. Before that I was doing articles, typical of a very early stage career Ph.D. My Ph.D. is in economics and that book, just turned out to be a best seller. I hit the moment really well with it. I lucked out. And so, I was giving a lot of talks and I had a chapter in there called “The Cycle of Work and Spend.” Somebody in the audience said to me, "How do I get out of the cycle of work and spend?" And the whole book was about the work side, really. I mean, I had a little on the spending, but I was like, "Oh, that's a really interesting question."

So, then the next project was understanding social pressures to spend. The book was The Overspent American. That one led to the next. So, it is true that I have been very unlike some people I know and there are people who I sort of, are my vintage PhDs, who are still working on the topic that they did their PhD on. And that's kind of not me. I think I would just be have a hard time sustaining interest in it. And partly, it has to do with, kind of, I tend to take a fairly broad approach to issues. Other people are kind of really digging down deep onto a narrower set of things, and both are really important. Both perspectives are important. I happen to have the one that I think you maybe exhaust what you usefully have to say on the topic quicker.

[00:05:58] Ramanan Raghavendran: All right. It's interesting. I feel it's almost easier to do that in science where you've got this defined problem that you're solving or theorizing for. Whereas in the Social Sciences and Humanities, the boundaries are a little more fuzzy to "I have found the definitive solution."

Okay, we will now start digging into some of your work. So, the Green Growth Theory aims to advance economic opportunity by expanding productivity, but also addressing environmental pressures and reducing greenhouse emissions. You've been a critic of this approach, especially in relation to public policy. And so, some thoughts and I want to just warn the audience that I happen to agree violently with you on this topic. And I'm a little unusual in my business circles to have that opinion.

[00:06:50] So, the question for you is why should we abandon the GDP growth at all cost mentality when considering the best way to reduce emissions?

[00:06:59] Juliet Schor: So, the first reason we need to abandon GDP-at-all-cost is really there's a simple answer to that, which is that the science tells us we've got to get emissions reductions in a certain range by a certain time, not much ambiguity about that. And at this point, the sort of rigorousness of those emissions reductions is extreme. I mean, they're really rapid and very hard to achieve. And we've spent some decades already trying to achieve emissions reductions and have not been successful.

So, the first thing is we asked the question, by how much do we need to reduce emissions? And then we can say, "Okay, what's the plan for doing that? And what's the scope for its expanding GDP?" And the answer for wealthy countries is, "We've pretty much lost that scope." And actually, a very heartbreaking and really sobering point is that if we look at the total carbon budget for the entire globe, some estimates say we don't have any left, which means we've got to think about how can we raise standards of living for poor people in global south countries without using GDP expansion, which is the typical way that we have lifted people out of poverty.

So, that's the quick answer to it. Now, let me go into that why-

[00:08:34] Ramanan Raghavendran: Yeah. We want the long answer.

[00:08:40] Juliet Schor: Yeah. So, why do I say that, that we can't expand? So, GDP, it all has to do with a debate that we call decoupling and that's the decoupling of emissions from output. Right now we have pretty close relationship, output goes up, emissions go up. And there are two kinds of decoupling. One is what we call relative decoupling, so for every dollar of GDP, how much energy do we use and what are the emissions associated with that energy? And then absolute decoupling is basically, so and so, relative decoupling is when you can, you're reducing the amount of emissions for every dollar of GDP.

Absolute decoupling is when you can actually increase your GDP and your emissions can go down. They just become unrelated. I mean, that's what you have to have to be able to have green growth. You've got to be able to expand at all the while that you're reducing your emissions. And we've almost never seen it. You have a couple of years, you might see it, because you have some lucky things like you're switching from coal to something else, and you're not you're not measuring your methane with your natural gas or there are a few examples of this. Or the other really big thing that's happened, where you see people think, "Oh, yes, we can grow without emissions," is that you're offshoring your emissions to other countries. So, Europe and the United States have done a lot of that, especially to China. So, so far, we've still got fairly the relationship between emissions and GDP is still close enough that we can't get there. In theory, we could have green growth if eventually, we could get to that. So, it's not a theoretical impossibility, it's just a practical impossibility at the moment.

Even if we decarbonized, all of our emissions, decarbonized, all of our energy systems and we change our land use patterns and so forth, our diets, we might be able to get back to a situation where we could grow and also be reducing emissions. But we're very far from that. There's a Dutch economist, who I think has a good point of view on this. And it's one I've advocated for in some of my writings. And it's an agnostic point of view about growth and it says, "We have an emissions target. In advance, we don't set a target around growth, we don't say we need to grow, or we need to shrink, we just figure out how we can meet our emissions target, and what rate of GDP change that is compatible with."

There may be a couple depending on how you choose to reduce, but that's really what we need to do. We need to follow the science and the green growth rhetoric doesn't follow the science. It's fuzzy on the science. It just says, "Oh, we can grow and do all these great things, but you just, you don't see, you're not going to find the hard numbers that show you can grow and continue to and get your emission reductions.

And that's why for example, even the IPCC who's doing increasingly great work, finally had to admit, "Well, we need to talk about demand." And because they've got all these fairy tale negative emission scenarios, coming in the second half of the century that are going to bail us out from all the growth that we did in the first part. But the last point on this, I think that's really important is growth isn't what it used to be.

In the past growth was poverty alleviating and it also was inequality alleviating, particularly in the first period that what we've sometimes called the Golden Age of capitalism. It wasn't golden for everybody, but a much better functioning economy. But when you start to look after 1980 and that's now 40 years, growth is associated with extreme inequality. It's associated with immiseration for people. We got to get rid of this growth centricity. It's not yielding well-being in the way that it once did. And the green growth scenario also is pretending we're still in a world that's been gone for almost 50 years.

[00:13:00] Ramanan Raghavendran: Right. All right, I have 15 follow-up questions, but we're going to be talking for five hours. So, let me move. All your research is super interesting, so I'm going to move to our next question.

So, much of your research has to do with what I would think of as climate related, but it also falls and this is what makes the work so interesting, at the intersection of human behavior, inequality and labor policy. So, this builds on what you just said, specifically, the offshoring comment, which really strikes home. But in general, whether west or east, emissions contributions are not made equal. 10% of the world's wealthiest households, most of which are in the affluent west, responsible for 45% of global emissions. So, this strikes to the heart of the Amasia investment thesis, which I try and keep out of these interviews, but I'm going to allow it to waft in. We're all about catalyzing behavior change.

[00:13:58] What do you think is the most effective way to catalyze behavior change in that top 10% that haven't necessarily thought about the world this way before?

[00:14:08] Juliet Schor: So, as I think about the question of how do you to catalyze behavior change in the top 10%? I think there's a big difference between the people at the very top and the people lower down in that distribution. So, I'm in that distribution, I'm a person that, the kind of a person that where persuasive campaigning, where role modeling, where nudging, where some tax policy, all of those things, and also market innovation that can bring new kinds of things. So, the fact that I can buy a really good electric car, they may switch from an internal combustion engine to an electric car.

And my doing that is leading to people all around me doing that in part as they see me. So, those that what we call demonstration effects are really important. I'm just waiting for the rest of the people on my street to put their solar panels up. But when we talk about, so within that 10%, you've got a really unequal distribution in terms of carbon footprints. I just read a very interesting paper by an old colleague friend of looking at the world's wealthiest billionaires and their carbon footprints.

And the guy at the very top is a Russian billionaire whose footprint, I mean, it's many times that of Gates and Elon Musk and Musk is reducing his and hopefully some of the people who like Musk will follow him. But there's no there's no behavior change strategy that's going to appeal to him, to Mr. Roman Abramovich. But I pronounced his name wrong, but anyway, I'm sure you know who it is. So, there, I think we have, so why is his footprint so big? Number one, it's his yacht. It's just absolutely enormous.

[00:16:12] Ramanan Raghavendran: Many enormous yachts.

[00:16:16] Juliet Schor: Yeah. And those are a major contributor to the carbon footprints of the people at the very top. I mean, he has a footprint thousands of times that of the people below, regular people, even people like me in the top 10%. So, for there, it's not going to be a behavior change strategy. We've got to get those yacht makers to stop making such giant yachts. So, we're just going to need some laws about sort of a set of things, which are just not feasible. And we're going to need the economic incentives, also, which make it so expensive. But part of the issue is that the people in the top of that distribution have so much money that they don't respond to economic incentives.

And they're not going to respond to shaming either. So, I think we're just going to have some laws, have to have some laws that are going to make some things not viable and we're going to have to focus on the places that have a lot of those really super polluters as they're called and we're not going to get it in every country, but there will still be some individuals. But I do think that behavior change is only going to take you so far with that top 10%. And a big part of the reason why is they're engaged in what I called in my book, The Overspent American, competitive consumption. They're engaged in a really intense struggle of competitive consumption, which is connected also to their earnings, competitive earnings. But they're showing off the wealth in very, very ostentatious ways.

I have a colleague who studied the VIP circuit and just the ways in which people actually just visibly destroy wealth, so buying the hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne bottle and just spill it out, just so everyone can see they literally have so much money, they can just burn it up. And the only way to get that under control is to start doing something about extreme inequality, because I just, I don't think there's another way. It's the fact that those folks are just sucking up so much of the value that's being created in the world today. And so much more than their fair share.

[00:18:37] Ramanan Raghavendran: I mean, I will tell you, I am more hopeful about all of that than I was two years ago, which is the good news. But you have to be immersed in looking at the world this way and looking out for these things as you are into a much lesser extent than I am to have that hope, but we'll see.

So, I want to switch now to other elements of your recent research and this concerns the sharing economy, which is now all around us. And it's celebrated in Silicon Valley, which is where I live, because it's easy for people like me to be entrepreneurs and be back to celebrate it, but as we know, as you've researched the economy poses huge challenges to workers, to businesses, to public policy institutions. And despite glorious promises of ecological reconstruction, worker empowerment, the peer-to-peer structure has given rise to concerns about exploitation, pollution, discrimination, and the list goes on. But you've presented a number of ways that the sharing economy can fulfill its original potential.

And I'm deeply interested in your response to this question, because I am certain we have a couple of investments in the sharing economy, but I'm sure we'll have more.

[00:19:55] What lessons can we learn from your research about the gig economy when it comes to developing more economically and environmentally efficient systems?

And you can feel free to touch on any element of this that you want.

[00:20:09] Juliet Schor: Well, let's start with the environmental. I think that's in some ways, a little more straightforward and connects obviously with what we've been talking about. So, if we think back to the claims that these sharing platforms, we're going to reduce carbon footprints, there was just always a prime facie implausibility to those. Because the two sectors where you had rapid growth and the big platforms, very successful in terms of growth platforms coming up are transportation and travel. So ride-hail, Uber and Lyft, Travel, Airbnb.

And key part of, so the peer-to-peer structure was, of course, very key to the novelty of these platforms, but the other thing was they've offered much cheaper alternatives than what was in the market. And you have to know that if you offer cheaper lodging, or cheaper transport, people are going to buy more of it. And so, it expanded the markets tremendously. And we've seen now we have less documentation on Airbnb, which is something I'm studying, but we have a lot now on ride-hail, which did the opposite of what its proponents claimed. It's led to more cars being registered, not fewer people having cars. It's led to more vehicle miles traveled, more congestion, more emissions, more traffic fatalities, et cetera.

So, right there, we’ve got to ask a question. If we want a platform to have a beneficial impact on footprints, we've got to number one, look at what it's going to do to the market, what's the technology involved. If they'd started out with electric cars, they might have made a massive difference. It could have maybe spread a revolution in EVs, because it would have expanded the market for EVs. It would have changed the culture and so forth.

So, there's an example of how a company could. If they put the ecological concerns at the forefront, they could actually, maybe have made a difference. Airbnb, the error was in the thinking about first round effects versus others, so they thought about the first round effects. Fewer hotels being produced, because you can use the idle, the spare capacity of people's homes. But they didn't think about the fact that people would travel more if they could get the cheap lodging. So, you got to think through all the rounds of impact and you've got to account for those.

And in the absence of a governmental policy to do that, at a company level, you can basically say, "We're going to put ecological sustainability at the core." And we have a few companies that do that. Not many, I mean, Patagonia being one of the most famous for really focusing very heavily on their ecological impacts, but you've got to measure it, you've got to account for it, and you've got to commit to a reduction. And it's not that easy. I mean, it's hard for an individual company to do it when you have a larger context in which you have highly subsidized fossil fuels. But-

[00:23:30] Ramanan Raghavendran: I mean, I would also say, in addition, absent guardrails that come from somewhere. These network businesses spiraled out of control very quickly. And then it's very hard to put the genie back in the bottle. I mean, my hope is as environmental concerns rise dramatically that there will in fact, be a new generation of disruptors that in these very spaces that are maybe built a different way. And you're seeing a little bit of that in my world, but not enough.

[00:24:02] Juliet Schor: Yeah. So, I mean, just a couple of more thoughts on this. I'm friends with a woman who co-founded Zipcar, and she's an ardent climate activist, I mean and cared so much about it and believe that Zipcar was going to reduce footprints. But I mean, this is the other thing about the gig economy companies, which is, in part, there are stories of unintended consequences. But it's partly because people didn't want to look hard enough on what was going on.

[00:24:33] Ramanan Raghavendran: No, they didn't. No one did.

[00:24:35] Juliet Schor: So, what Zipcar did, Zipcar gave car access to lots of people who didn't have it before. And then I had another friend who did work with the company and helped convince them to stop saying that they were reducing footprints, because it was pretty clear, they weren't, which they did. But yeah, so I know. I had another great, I mean, probably a lot of people in startups and entrepreneurs and so forth are watching your podcast, so...

[00:25:00] Ramanan Raghavendran: Yes.

[00:25:02] Juliet Schor: ... I'll give a story of another guy, I had quite a few. I started studying the gig economy, just basically when it started and there weren't many academics around and I had quite a few startup entrepreneurs contact me for advice, and to talk about it. And so, this is a guy who, again, ardent environmentalist, wanted to start an app that when you put a product into, you go to a store. It reads the skew on the product or whatever, it reads something on the product, and it tells you what the resale value is going to be.

And the reason is, so he was thinking about things like camping gear and durables. That the aim was to induce consumers to buy higher quality, more durable products with lower ecological impact, so they would last a long time. Okay. Sounds really great, right? But what I tried to explain to him was, if you do that people are going to buy more and then they're going to resell them and buy yet another one, because when you create that secondary market, it's actually going to expand the demand. So, you're going to get-

[00:26:15] Ramanan Raghavendran: Right. Is that pretty much what happened?

[00:26:17] Juliet Schor: Well, you're going to get the opposite of what happened. Okay. Very resistant. We go through a couple of conversations. I keep trying to convince them. Finally, I say, "Look, get yourself an economist. Hire a consultant to do a model for you to show you what is going to happen as a result of your app." Would have been a very simple thing to do. It would have shown what I'm talking about. No, he just, he wouldn't do it. He stopped talking to me, because he didn't want to hear it.

He really wanted, he wanted to be able to do this thing, which he thought is going to be successful, and which emotionally, he wanted it to be good for the environment, but it wasn't going to be and he didn't want to give it up. And I just think there's a way in which with the whole sharing economy, there were just a lot of people who really wanted to believe that it was going to be good for the environment because they liked it for other reasons, many of which are very legitimate. So, we've got to face the hard facts.

[00:27:21] Ramanan Raghavendran: We do have to face the hard facts. And that brings me to our final question which is a little bit more on the activist side of your life. So, you've been heavily involved in community-based environmental efforts, which I did not know until I researched your background because I focus more on your research. You co-founded and served on the board for the Center for New American Dream for 15 years, you're currently on the board of the Better Future Project.

And in a couple of your works, you've discussed the value of low consumption behavior patterns in small innovative grassroots groups. This is hugely interesting.

[00:27:59] So, tell us a little bit about grassroots momentum when it comes to changing climate policy and behavior.

And this is very topical for me, because I'm in the middle of a conversation with someone else about essentially this topic.

[00:28:13] Juliet Schor: So, to understand our consumer behavior, the most important thing to get is that we are super social, and what we experience our consumer or desires, what feels adequate, what's satisfying, what's enough, what isn't enough, et cetera, always in the context of others. And this goes totally counter to what you learned, if you took an economics course, in this country in the last 50 years, I would say.

Because, this used to be a big part of how economists understood consumption. But they moved away from this to this very individualist model, which is really based on the idea that what we consume gives us value or welfare because of its functional qualities. So, the reason I want this car is because it's a better car, rather than what its social meaning is. So, in a world where it's the social meanings of consumption, which are really key. And I think that's the world we live in. Not to say, "Yes, the functional characteristics do matter." And people differ across this. But the social meetings are really, really key.

Then what the consumption patterns of the people around us are so key in determining how we experience our consumer levels. So, whether something is enough or not really depends on who's around us. And that's what I showed in my work with things like consumer items that we take out in public, we pay a lot more in the status premium for them.

So, I did a study of women's makeup, and the lipsticks are the ones, all the lipsticks are chemically identical, who are paying multiples of 5 to 15 for a lipstick based on the name brand and the case, which is what people can see, because women take their lipsticks out in public. For their facial cleansers, no. They demand quality if they're going to pay more.

I showed that the amount that people save depends a lot on who their friends are and how much more or less money they have than they do. So, people spend up to their reference groups and they go into debt to keep up with people if their crowd is just wealthier than they are. So, this is where the small group context of people transforming lifestyles more of in community. It's important because people can downshift together if that's what we're talking about. People can go to lower carbon lifestyles together.

So, if everybody else is going to a smaller electric car or they start actually working a little bit less, earning less, having more free time, doing some gardening. If all the people around you are doing it, it just makes it a lot more easy, pleasurable and psychologically viable to do it. And so, I think that's the question you were asking. It's about how we transform lifestyles and the idea that it has to happen in community.

And it's why you see certain areas, the Pacific Northwest, or some of the college towns or areas where you get a lot of a phenomenon I've written a lot about what to downshifting, where people will make trade-offs to have more time and less money. And that's really key. I mean, the whole premise of the Center for a New American Dream was that the lifestyle of long hours of work, commutes, big houses, affluent consumer lifestyles, et cetera isn't meeting people's needs.

And that we could sort of get off that treadmill if we all sort of downshift together, we're not going to get left behind, which is a lot of what people worry about in this country. And we're going to have more time for our kids. Our tagline was more of, "What really matters." And there's just so much research saying that what really matters is people's social connections, their connections with family, meaningful work, and their physical health, which is connected to work patterns and social connection.

So, it's sort of, "Let's attend to the things which actually give us well-being" and we know that once we've got a decent standard of living, just piling up the toys or escalating our living standards actually doesn't yield much in the way of well-being compared to things like having more time having more security, having stronger social relations and meaning. Meaning is so, so important to people. To not do something you don't believe in and care about just to get money.

[00:33:01] Ramanan Raghavendran: I guess, I mean, as you can imagine, I agree with you. But in my case, these realizations came after many decades of behaving otherwise, let's put it that way. And it really came about as a result of a lot of reading and thinking and research, not really in a social setting, as you point out. It is much easier to do this and much more likely to occur when you have that smaller group in social setting.

So, I'll just toss in one little follow-up question for people who watch this, who say, "Oh, my God, Juliet is making a ton of sense here."

[00:33:36] How does one find one's way to a small group because it implies unless you want to get evangelical with your own current groups, it implies that you need to go find a like-minded group. Now, how does one even think about that?

[00:33:51] Juliet Schor: Well, I think the good news is that there are more and more people all over the country, and particularly the kinds of people who are watching this podcast within your community. There are more and more people who are thinking about these things, and really thinking in these ways. And so, you can start with something like a book club or just something small, and begin to have the conversation. One of the things that I think is that just asking the questions kind of leads us to the answer is like these are conversations we're not supposed to be having or our culture hasn't been having, except on the margins, until recently.

I think that there's a lot more openness to having the conversations now. And if we really just start with conversations, like, "What's really important to you, how is your life working? Where isn't it working? Like what do you value?" I think you can get pretty quickly to places where you've got a lot of people in the room agreeing even if they're living their lives in very different ways. Like even if they're most hard charging, money-oriented consumerist, there's a part of many of those people, not all, but many of those people who have an unease with it.

I can tell you one thing that I found among people I know because I know a lot of people in your world or worlds like it over the years and people I went to college with or whatever, many took that path. Many of them have a dream that they think is like their true self. "This is who I really am. I'm not this person who's just cutthroat financier or just making all this money or whatever." And they sort of live with that contradiction between like, "Oh, when I get this, then I'm going to retire and do this or when this happens, then I'm going to fulfill that dream."

They hold on to that vision, which is typically not just I want to be the richest person that I can or I just want to have the biggest house or there are a few people for whom that is their dream and God bless them.

[00:36:02] Ramanan Raghavendran: Yes. God bless them.

[00:36:04] Juliet Schor: But many of us we live with that contradiction. That contradiction between that sort of the dream that we had when we were young maybe or an ideal self or something and kind of how our everyday life is going. And also allowing people to kind of realize that and talk about that and kind of explore that. I mean, what I found with the down shifters was it for a lot of them, they left when following the money became unattainable, because it was burning them out. They were losing their health. Maybe something was happening to their children, because they were working too long or those kinds of things.

So, it's often a life crisis that will prompt this kind of change. I mean, hopefully people don't have to go through that. But there are people, maybe like yourself, for whom it's come about in a more organic way, just through reading, learning, thinking, just then you start down a path. And one thing about, I mean, for me, these ideas are different, I would say, my path has been more about, reducing footprint over the years, like different things. But you do one thing, and "It's actually pretty good." Then you try the next and the next and there is that kind of momentum that can gather when you start on a path towards living a life that's different from the normative high-consumer lifestyle of a lot of Americans.

[00:37:35] Ramanan Raghavendran: Yeah. I mean, I'll just say, I obviously agree with everything you just said. I'm just making an observation about my peer group, so to speak. And my peer group is actually a very wide range of people in it, including many, if not most, who would not be conservative affluent. But if I look at the affluent side of the spectrum, you're absolutely right. They have a dream of over here and then there's the reality. And often the reality is, every time you get the one economic outcome, there's always this another guy with another zero to his name at the end of the number. And you really end up just never getting off the treadmill.

And I say this often to people in my circle, "I seem to know an unusual number of rich, unhappy people." And that's sad. That's sad in many ways, but we're not going to end on a sad note. We're going to end in a very positive note, which is that we should all be thinking about what those small groups are to get us to rethink footprints and downshifting. And even, on a very positive note, I have slowly been finding my own such groups in that fashion.

So, Juliet, we could go on for like days here and we cannot because you have other stuff to do. So, I'm going to thank you very much for your time. And this is unfortunately for you, not going to be the last time we do this, because we're now going to have to do five more like these to just dig into every topic. But thank you very much for your time.

[00:39:15] Juliet Schor: It's been wonderful. Thank you. I really appreciate you asking me.

In Our Hands
In Our Hands
In Our Hands is a podcast series featuring interviews with climate and sustainability experts on the front lines of climate action, emphasizing behavior change. Guests include researchers, journalists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, authors, and more.