Can we afford our consumer society?

Clothes shop. Markusspiske, used under CC0 Creative Commons

The holiday season is upon us and the latest episode of LSE IQ podcast asks, ‘Can we afford our consumer society?’

With a different format than usual, this episode of LSE IQ was recorded in front of an audience as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.  

Economic growth has helped millions out of poverty. The jobs it creates mean rising incomes and consumers who buy more. This drives further growth and higher living standards, including better health and education.

Yet WWF, the World Wildlife Fund, has recently warned that exploding human consumption is the driving force behind unprecedented planetary change, through increased demand for energy, land and water.

Plastics and microplastics are filling our oceans and rivers and entering the food chain. The production of goods and services for household use is the most important cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The textile industry is responsible for depleting and polluting water resources and committing human rights abuses against its workers. It is also a major source of greenhouse gases, and three fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.

The experts tackling these issues were Dr Rebecca Elliott, Assistant Professor in LSE’s Department of Sociology, Professor Ian Gough, Visiting Professor at LSE’s Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion and an Associate at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Dr Rodolfo Leyva, LSE Fellow in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications.

LSE IQ live was presented by Joanna Bale and Sue Windebank. The episode was recorded and produced by Ollie Johnson, James Rattee and Tom Williams.

Each episode of LSE IQ sees a range of LSE academics, and other experts, line up to give their perspective on one timely question. For all episodes of LSE IQ, please visit or search for 'LSE IQ' in your favourite podcast app.