Population vs Consumption
UCLA professor Jared Diamond explains why we should be worried about our current rate of consumption.
Is it population or consumption? Tell us what you think.
So steep and deep was the recent slide on the world's stock markets that politicians began uttering the dreaded 'r' word. To stave off a recession or even worse, the Feds lowered a key interest rate, calling on Americans to do what Americans do best: consume. Save the world's economy by generating demand for stuff. But Jared Diamond, in a recent "New York Times" op-ed, warns that our current consumption isn't saving the planet, it's destroying it.
Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA and best-selling author of "Collapsed" and "Guns, Germs, and Steel." He's focusing on consumption when others say the real problem is the world's rapidly growing population:
"I'm looking at consumption as opposed to population because consumption of resources is the significant consideration in whether we're going to have enough resources. Population alone is only part of the equation. What counts is the number of people times how much, on the average, each of those people consume. And that means that consumption rates rise — either if population rises which it's doing slowly — or per person consumption rates rise, which they're doing rapidly as a result of China and India catching up and as a result of people from all over the word doing their best to try to move to the U.S., and Europe, and Australia and become first world consumers."
He says world population has six point five billion people -- that it will have nine billion people by mid-century. But if we all consumed like Americans that the rest of the world would add up to 72 billion people:
"Americans and other first worlders -- that's to say Europeans and Japanese and Australians -- consume 32 times more resources. That's to say we consume 32 times more gas, and 32 times more metals, but by the same token we put out 32 times more waste like plastics and greenhouse gases, than do citizens of third world countries, and that means that one American equals 32 Kenyans in his or her impact on the rest of the world."
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