Disconnecting from Consumerism: Embracing a ‘New Materialism’ and Re-imagining our Relationship with Information Technology


24th April 2013


24th April 2013






Burgh House, Hampstead

Watch video highlights from the talk here! To mark the release of our new report – Short Circuit: The Lifecycle of our Electronic Gadgets and the True Cost to Earth – we held a Gaia Evening with report author Philippe Sibaud and a panel of speakers.

Short Circuit is the follow-up to our 2012 report, Opening Pandora’s Box, which exposed the global acceleration of land grabbing and environmental destruction by the extractive industries. The new report explores one of the drivers of this expansion in mining – the production of consumer electronic products. It looks at each stage of the lifecycle of modern electronic gadgets such as mobile phones and laptops, from extraction to production, design and marketing, through to use and disposal.

Short Circuit sheds light on the hidden costs behind these ubiquitous objects and shows that the current linear model of ‘take-make-dispose’ is not only destructive, wasteful and unsustainable, but that ultimately, we are running out of finite ‘resources’. We drastically need to rethink how we produce and consume electronics. This will involve designing systems and products for the ‘circular economy’, and ‘closing the loop’ on the lifecycle of electronics by designing products that are infinitely recyclable with little or no waste throughout their entire lifecycle.

The report also looks deeper into the heart of the issues – the consumer economic model which feeds our desire to have the latest gadget, no matter what the true cost. Ultimately, we need to address our consumption patterns and re-think how and why we value ‘stuff’, both as individuals and as a society. We can re-imagine our relationship with information technology and consumer electronics and explore the path of a ‘New Materialism’. We are privileged to be joined by Andrew Simms, Ruth Potts and Ugo Vallauri to explore some of these ideas.

About the Speakers:

Andrew Simms, author, activist, and Fellow of nef (the new economics foundation). His book, Cancel the Apocalypse: The New Path to Prosperity is published by Little Brown in February 2012

Ruth Potts, co-founder of Bread, Print & Roses. She has a Masters in Economics for Transition from Schumacher College.

Andrew Simms and Ruth Potts co-authored: The New Materialism – How our relationship with the material world can change for the better.

Ugo Vallauri, co-founder of The Restart Project – a social enterprise aimed at changing our relationship with information technologies. The Restart Project creates alternative opportunities for citizens and communities to resist the dominant throw-away culture of tablets, smartphones, laptops, printers – and to focus on more frugal and conscious consumption models.

Philippe Sibaud, author of the report. Before writing the Pandora’s Box Report and the authoring this follow-on report, Philippe was involved in the oil industry for 18 years, first as an operator, then as a trader of crude oil on the international markets. He has left the industry in 2007 to concentrate on environmental and social projects.

Liz Hosken, Director of The Gaia Foundation. Gaia and allies are releasing the Short Circuit report.