John de Graaf is the national coordinator for the Take Back Your Time initiative, which challenges the ‘epidemic of overwork.’ He frequently speaks at conferences and universities around the world about the issues of overwork and overconsumption. He is the co-author of the book “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic” and producer of a PBS special by the same title, as well as the recipient of more than 100 regional, national and international awards for film-making . Currently, John is teaching a course at Evergreen State College called “What’s the Economy for Anyway” and working at the Seattle PBS affiliate KCTS-TV.
We caught up with John after he returned from a short stint in Washington D.C. where he was lobbying for Take Back Your Time’s Vacation Law campaign.
WC: What place or policy do you consider Worldchanging?
JdG: The Dutch (Working) Hours Adjustment Act of 2000. Anyone can ask their employer to cut their hours and keep their health care and benefits. (Employers can refuse for specific reasons). Certainly if we work less, we’ll make less money and we’ll consume less, and reduce our carbon footprint and energy use.
WC: What’s your favorite Worldchanging idea right now?
JdG: More time means more time for choices. People who have more time have less need for convenience items, more time to grow their own food, shop locally, more time to pay attention to their consumption habits and to think and talk about conservation and sustainability in general.
If you set real limits on the number of hours and you decide what you need to accomplish, you decide how realistically you can get that done in that amount of time.
WC: What are some of your favorite resources?
JdG: The Nation , Harpers , The Huffington Post , Sierra Magazine, Yes! Magazine and Earth Island Journal. As for books, Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman and The Great Risk Shift by Jacob S. Hacker.
WC: What issues in Seattle do you think need the most attention?
JdG: We need to be a city where low- and middle-income people live; we need a commitment to affordable, low-income housing. We really need some commitment to public transportation -- we’re woefully behind Portland. We need to do more than raise the cost of parking. We need a transitional solution between now and the light rail.
WC: What’s your vision for Seattle?
JdG: If we eliminated the phenomenal tax giveaways to wealthy Americans and put that money into affordable housing, public transportation, ect, we could build an infrastructure that could take us into the future.