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Individual Paper: Regulating our consumer culture: what role can the law play in addressing excessive consumption?

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The need to downscale current levels of consumption is a key component of the degrowth agenda. However, getting individuals to consume less or “de-materialize” is a tricky proposition, particularly in wealthy nations where excessive consumption is rampant. The role of law in addressing individual consumption has also received little attention in the degrowth literature. As such, in this paper I explore the role the law can play in reducing the amount individuals consume, with a focus on the wealthy nation of Canada.

First, I consider some of the ways the law could be used by states willing to take bold and aggressive action to reduce the amount consumed by individuals. Next, I assess whether Canada has used any of those legal tools to address consumption. I conclude that Canadian legal efforts are generally insufficient, in that they fail to focus on achieving reductions in the amount individuals consume. In particular, I conclude that where efforts to regulate consumption exist in Canada, a “weak” approach to consumption is taken, whereby the focus is on increasing the efficiency of consumption or on changing patterns of consumption towards “green” consumption. However, there are some limited examples where a “strong” approach to consumption is taken, whereby the intent of the law is to ensure absolute reductions in the actual amount consumed (e.g. avoiding buying new things) as opposed to just consuming more efficiently or more “greenly”. I will analyze some of those real-world Canadian law examples to ascertain whether they provide guidance for future efforts to regulate consumption in pursuit of the degrowth state.

Info

Day: 2018-08-22
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Piano bar)
Track: Degrowth: Culture, Power and Change

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