Why Working Less Is Better For The Globe

By Dara Colwell, published on AlterNet, May 21,2007.

Americans are working harder than ever before. The dogged pursuit of the paycheck coupled with a 24/7 economy has thrust many of us onto a never-ending treadmill. But of workaholism’s growing wounded, its greatest casualty has been practically ignored – the planet.

“We now seem more determined than ever to work harder and produce more stuff, which creates a bizarre paradox: We are proudly breaking our backs to decrease the carrying capacity of the planet,” says Conrad Schmidt, an internationally known social activist and founder of the Work Less Party, a Vancouver-based initiative aimed at moving to a 32-hour work week — a radical departure from the in early, out late cycle we’ve grown accustomed to. “Choosing to work less is the biggest environmental issue no one’s talking about.”

A backlash against overwork fatigue, the Work Less Party is one of a growing number of initiatives aimed at cutting work hours while tackling unemployment, environmentally unfriendly behavior and boosting leisure time. According to Schmidt, author of “Workers of the World RELAX,” which examines the economics of reduced industrial work, working less would allow us to produce less, consume less, pollute less and – no complaints here – live more.

“As a society, we’re working exponentially hard to decrease sustainability and it’s making us miserable — just look at how antidepressants are on the rise,” he says. “In order to reduce our ecological footprint, we have to take working less very seriously.”

Americans work more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, we work 250 hours, or five weeks, more than the Brits, and a whopping 500 hours, or 12 and a half weeks, more than the Germans. So how does ecological damage figure in to the 40-plus workweek? (full text).

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