Signs of the emergence of a “new consumer” pre-dated the recession that started in 2007-08. In fact, this trend has been observed for well over 15 years. Research undertaken by sociologist Paul Ray and psychologist Sherry Anderson in America in the late 1990s identified a segment of the American population, some 50 million strong, called Cultural Creatives who demonstrated the following traits:
- love nature and exhibit deep caring about its preservation, and its natural balance.
- are acutely aware of the planet-wide issues (i.e. climate change, poverty etc.) and want to see more action on them
- are active themselves as well willing to pay higher taxes or spend more money for goods if that money went to improving the environment
- emphasise the importance of developing and maintaining relationships
- also emphasise the importance helping others and developing their unique gifts
- volunteer with one or more good causes
- show intense interest in spiritual and psychological development
- see spirituality as an important aspect of life, but worry about religious fundamentalism
- desire equity for women/men in business, life and politics
- demonstrate concern and support of the wellbeing of all women and children
- want politics and government to spend more money on education, community programs and the support of a more ecologically stable future
- resist polorisation of political views (notions of left and right) demonstrate optimism about the future
- want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life
- are concerned about big business and the means they use to generate profits, including destroying the environment and exploiting poorer countries
- are unlikely to overspend or be in heavy debt
- dislike the emphasis of modern cultures on “making it” and “success”, on consuming and making money; and
- like people, places and things that are different or exotic
Ironically, another key finding of Ray and Andersons’s research was that each Cultural Creative thought they were in a minority of one and alone and different as back in the 90s it didn’t feel as safe to openly question the system and the core conventional beliefs that underpinned it.
As stated in the film (see trailer below), it’s now thought that Cultural Creatives might number as many as 200 million around the world. But for as long as each thought he or she was alone, they lacked the power of the collective.
By 2011, that sense of aloneness had disappeared as movement after movement across the group demonstrated widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo. By 2009, Paul Hawken had identified over a million of grassroots initiatives across the globe involved in social and environmental change.