Many in the US believe that the rest of the world should follow in our economic footpath and if they do, they can benefit from the “American Dream.” Philosophical questions aside, is this even possible? Can the planet support a world full of people who consume in the same way as a typical American?
How do Americans consume? This slide will give you a sense.
We represent about 5% of the world population which is indicated by that blue piece of the pie. That is our fair share of resources from the planet. The amount we actually consume is shown in blue + purple. As you can see, we consume much, much more than our fair share.
Although 1/20th of the world’s population we consume
1/4 of the world’s fossil fuel;
1/3 of the world paper
1/5 of the worlds minerals
And America, 5% of the world’s population produces 75% of the worlds toxic waste.
So, how many “Americas” can the planet support?
The United States, at 5% of the world population (about 300 million people) consumes about 25% of the worlds resources. Let’s imagine that another 300 million people develop in the same manner and live a similar lifestyle. Now we have 10% of the world consuming 50% of the world’s resources. Add another 300 million people and we have 15% of the world consuming 75% of the world’s resources. One more time and we have 20% of humanity using 100% of the worlds resources.
Hmmn. So 1.2 billion people are living very well. But the current global population is 6.8 billion. What happened to the other 5.6 billion people?
Well, they are dead. We are using up all their resources.
Following our Lead
It is clear that the world cannot even support 4 “Americas.” Turns out that the world is now following in our footsteps. Most societies have some form of capitalism in place and they are succeeded in creating millions, and millions of new consumers. People who are now living the same type of lifestyle we do in the US.
Let’s add them up:
- Unites States
- Europe (that is about 300 million people who live about as well as we do)
- China (china’s economy has been booming for the last 30 years…now have at least 300 million middle class consumers)
- India (India’s economy has been booming for the last decade or so, and have created roughly another “America”)
- Asian Middle Class (Add up the middle class from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and you get another 300 million consumers)
- Russia/Central Europe (Add up the growing wealthy elite in these countries and you get another 300 million)
- China@2030 (At the current rate of growth, China will add another 300 million to their middle class in the next 20 years)
- India@2030 (At the current rate of growth, India will add another 300 million to their middle class in the next 20 years)
Sooooo, in the next 20 years we are going to have 8 Americas come on line. There is nothing subtle about this. No room for negotiation. There is no technology, or “greater efficiency” or production improvement that can deal with this.
For the current population to live like Americans, we would need five Earths. We don’t have five earths but we are hurling ahead as if we do.
This last graph says it all. Somewhere in the 1980’s we passed the carrying capacity of the earth. The longer we stay above that horizontal line the more we are eating away at the earths natural resource capital.
Every day above that line we reduce the earths ability to support life on the planet. For future generations to survive and flourish, we cannot take resources from the planet faster than the planet can regenerate them.
Our sense of what is a “realistic” lifestyle is simply off the charts. We need to dramatically change our lives before mother earth does it for us.
- Buy Less
- Work Less
- Drive Less (get rid of one of those cars)
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
- Buy local (when you must)
- Live more. Family. Friends. Self