As if it were one of the laws of nature, consumption is always proclaimed as the cure for a threatening economic crisis. We simply choose to forget that environmental and climate crises call for a completely different ball game – nature screams for less consumption and a move away from ruthless exploitation of resources – now.

By Hans Henrik Samuelsen, Geographer

It may sound like we need to choose between the economy and the environment, but given a bit of thought it should be possible to solve both crises at the same time.

Basically, concentrating on what we really need is key. First and foremost that requires confronting the advertisement industry as it functions today. Besides leading us to buying certain products, advertisement constantly encourages us to buy more, bigger and newer, which most of the time is completely unnecessary, as it adds nothing to our general well-being.

DO WE REALLY need advertisement? What would happen if we banned it altogether? Is it not obvious that influencing behaviour is unnecessary and that consumers are perfectly capable of finding out for themselves what to eat and take home?

Without advertisements (in newspapers, television, internet etc.), consumption would be directly connected to needs and individual's fantasy. We would be left to ourselves and the people closest to us. Which cheese did you buy and why? Have you tried the one at the corner, they say it is home made?

The result of an ad-free world would be to encourage a new level of conversation and exchange of ideas. What did you eat last night? Why choose those products? Where do you have that delicious sausage from?

Easy and manipulating access to consumers by 'Big producers’ would be over. New markets would emerge and locally produced products would be able to compete on fair conditions. Most likely, the diversity in our refrigerators would increase along with our quality of life. Who does not enjoy the ability to control and decide for themselves?

Another likely and positive result of a new level in our conversation, would be higher quality and greater lifetime of products, as the new conversation would naturally include such a topic. Without advertisement it would be near impossible to make consumers believe that a given product is good if it is not. Thus, it should be possible for consumer-satisfaction to go can go hand in hand with the environment and the economy?

AFTER REDEFINING advertisement in society, the national economy would experience a whole new reality. Locally produced goods would find a new place on the shelves along the multinational standardized products. GDP would drop as a result of lower consumption, but the trade would get a healthy boost. Please remember that GDP is not an indicator of how healthy a society is, but just a number for monetary activity.
Lower consumption eases today’s pressure on the environment and consuming local products would create new job opportunities.

Ending advertisement is a simple tool with the potential to help end present day crises in one go, while strengthen modern peoples’ understanding and thus participation in society: We would basically become more prudent and sensible in our consumption choices.

TODAY, ADVERTISEMENT leads us away from information that raises our awareness about whether we really need a given product; whether we can afford it; whether other products exist at a better price and quality; and whether any negative or worrying circumstances can be connected to the production and consumption of the product.
All these associations could be a natural part of the new consumer conversation that may exist today; but is surrounded by misleading interference from the advertisement industry.

The manipulation that the advertisement industry dictates is exclusively controlled by the market’s wish for an ever increase in consumption of 'anything'. This reality does not serve the common interest and has only one effect – making the product more expensive.

As an example, Danes receive 55 kg of paper advertisement from retail businesses in their letterbox every year. A study from Copenhagen Business School indicates that the retail business charges producers €1 billion a year for marketing their particular products. In the end the consumers pay the bill.

BY PUTTING AN end to unnecessary advertisement, people would be left well-informed and far more rooted in reality. Life without advertisement could generate a society that only produces and sets its focus on 'what is really needed'. People know when they are hungry and when they are cold. We could even skip a gadget-generation, as we begin to focus on something else and therefore fail to realize the need for a new mobile phone every year at Christmas. And so what?

The way out of the crisis in the 1930’s may have been consumption, but with the ecological crisis solidly hanging over us, it cannot be a way out today. The Earth will not sustain us anymore.