Core Issue

The traditional American dream of opportunity, progress, and freedom speaks to the hearts of most people. Yet the recent "more is better" definition of the dream has many hidden costs. Our way of life depends on a continuous influx of the very commodities that are most damaging to the environment. This is particularly troubling since nearly every other nation in the world is emulating American consumption patterns. As global population increases and consumption skyrockets, we are rapidly depleting the planet's natural resources, degrading its renewable support systems of water, soil, and air, and producing more waste than the Earth and its atmosphere can absorb.

Our hectic work-and-spend way of life also has huge social costs. In 1998, over 1.4 million families declared personal bankruptcy, credit card debt reached new heights, and the personal savings rate fell to the lowest level since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans report feeling exhausted, pressured, and hungry for more balanced lives. They are seeking greater purpose and more free time to spend with family and friends.

We need a creative combination of technology, innovative policies, behavior change, and cultural renaissance to sustain a high quality of life while consuming far fewer resources. The time for education and action is overdue. This site is part of the Center for a New American Dream's attempt to inspire and facilitate such education and action -- but your interest and participation is the crucial ingredient. We greatly appreciate your commitment and hope you will continue to delve into consumption issues by taking the New Dream Puzzle Tour or checking out the core reading list below. Alternatively, you may want to move straight to actions via Turn the Tide or our current campaigns.

Core Reading List

Quick Reads

  • Believing Cassandra, Alan AtKisson, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999.
  • How Much is Enough?, Alan Durning, W.W. Norton & Co., 1992.

  • Material World, Peter Menzel, Sierra Club Books, 1994.
  • The Overspent American, Juliet Schor, Basic Books, 1998.
  • Our Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, New Society Publishers, 1996.
  • Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet, John Ryan, Northwest Environment Watch, 1999.
  • Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things, John Ryan and Alan Durning, Northwest Environment Watch, 1997.

Headier Works

  • Beyond Growth, Herman Daly, Island Press, 1996.
  • Beyond the Limits, Donella Meadows, et al., Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1992.
  • The Consumer Society, Neva Goodwin, et al.(editors), Island Press, 1997.
  • Environmentally Significant Consumption, Paul Stern, et al.(editors), National Academy Press, 1997.
  • Human Development Report 1998, United Nations Development Programme, 1998.
  • Population and Consumption Task Force Report, The President’s Council on Sustainable Development, 1996.

Copyright (c) 1999 CNAD
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