"To say that we are a people of impossible longings is not to excuse excess but merely to note a problem that is gaining urgency and significance as rapidly as the economy. When we run out of things to have, will we also run out of things to want? Or will it be too late to save ourselves from the acquisitive impulse along with the rest of the world that we infect with it?" writes Roger Rosenblatt, essayist for Time Magazine and PBS television in this hard-hitting and perspicacious collection of essays. The award-winning editor argues that the engines of capitalism are driven by desire and the Western concept of self as a solitary and restless individual. The Earth and all humanity are violated by the voracious American appetite for "stuff."

William Greider's slam-dunk essay "One World of Consumers" lays out the dilemma beautifully. Edward N. Luttwak delineates the "emotional deficit" that underlies consumerism. Judith Schor explores the rise of the aspiration gap between what greedy individuals want and what they can afford. Alex Kotlowitz sheds light on the urban poor as "a surprisingly lucrative market," and Molly Haskell probes movies and the selling of desire. One of the most hopeful essays is Bill McKibben on an Adirondack community that put biodiversity over comfort in a battle against blackflies.