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Work Less to Sustain Planet Earth, Say Activists

"Choosing to work less is the biggest environmental issue no one's talking about," regrets 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.

"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.

Americans work more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. According to the United Nations' International Labor Organization, they 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.

Maintaining growth means using more energy and resources, both in manpower and raw materials, which results in increased waste and pollution.

John de Graaf, producer of the groundbreaking 1997 PBS documentary "Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, says, "It's staggering. The USA has declined relative to all other industrial countries in virtually every quality of life measured -- health, equality, savings, sustainability -- though that's not so with the GDP and certainly not with the number of billionaires.," he says. Unsurprisingly, the United States is the world's largest polluter.

Housing a mere 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for 22 percent of its fossil fuel consumption, 50 percent of its solid waste, and, on average, each citizen consumes 53 times more goods than a person in China, according to the environmental nonprofit, Sierra Club.

When people work longer hours, they rely increasingly on convenience items such as fast food, disposable diapers, or bottled water. Built-in obsolescence has become standard business practice -- just throw it away and make more -- leaving mountainous landfills in its wake. "Earning more often means spending money in ways that are environmentally d
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