Over-consumption


Over-consumption
Energy consumption per capita per country in 2001
CO2 emission per capita per year per country pre-2006

Over-consumption is a situation where resource-use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to inevitable environmental degradation and the eventual loss of resource bases. Generally the discussion of overconsumption parallels that of overpopulation; that is the more people, the more consumption of raw materials to sustain their lives. Currently, the developed nations of the world consume at a rate of 32, while the rest of the developing worlds’ 5.5 billion people consume at a rate closer to 1."[1]

The theory was coined to augment the discussion of overpopulation, which reflects issues of carrying capacity without taking into account per capita consumption, by which developing nations are evaluated to consume more than their land can support. Green parties and the ecology movement often argue that consumption per person, or ecological footprint, is typically lower in poor than in rich nations.

Contents

Effects

A fundamental effect of over-consumption is a reduction in the planet's carrying capacity. Excessive unsustainable consumption will exceed the long term carrying capacity of its environment (ecological overshoot) and subsequent resource depletion, environmental degradation and reduced ecological health.

The scale of modern life's over-consumption has enabled an overclass to exist, displaying affluenza and obesity. However once again both of these claims are controversial with the latter being correlated to other factors more so than over-consumption.

In the long term these effects can lead to increased conflict over dwindling resources [2] and in the worst case a Malthusian catastrophe.

Economic growth

The Worldwatch Institute said China and India, with their booming economies, along with the United States, are the three planetary forces that are shaping the global biosphere.[3] The State of the World 2006 report said the two countries' high economic growth exposed the reality of severe pollution. The report states that

The world's ecological capacity is simply insufficient to satisfy the ambitions of China, India, Japan, Europe and the United States as well as the aspirations of the rest of the world in a sustainable way,

Footprint

The idea of overconsumption is also strongly tied to the idea of an ecological footprint. The term “ecological footprint” refers to the “resource accounting framework for measuring human demand on the biosphere.” A study by Mathis Wackernagel has shown that the global ecological footprint was in overshoot by .4 global hectares per person, or roughly 23%.[4] Of these developing countries, China presents the largest threat. Currently, China is roughly 11 times lower in per capita footprint, yet has a population that is more than four times the size of the USA. It is estimated that if China developed to the level of the United States that world consumption rates would roughly double.[1]

Counteractions

The most obvious solution to the issue of overconsumption is to simply slow the rate at which materials are becoming depleted. To consume less is to watch these economies suffer. Instead, countries must look to curb consumption rates while allowing for new industries, such as renewable energy and recycling technologies, to flourish and deflect some of the economic burden. A fundamental shift in the global economy may be necessary in order to account for the current change that is taking place or that will need to take place. Movements and lifestyle choices related to stopping overconsumption include: anti-consumerism, freeganism, green economics, ecological economics, degrowth, frugality, downshifting, simple living and thrifting.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Diamond, Jared: (2008 January 2). "What's Your Consumption Factor?" The New York Times
  2. ^ Effects of Over-Consumption and Increasing Populations. 26 September 2001. Retrieved on 19 June 2007
  3. ^ Renner, Michael (January 2006). "Chapter 1: China, India, and the New World Order". State of the world 2005: A Worldwatch Institute Report on progress toward a sustainable society.. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0393326667. OCLC 57470324. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/3992. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  4. ^ Mathis Wackernagel (Lead Author); Thomas Russ (Topic Editor);. 2008. "Ecological footprint." In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth January 23, 2007; Last revised November 18, 2008; Retrieved April 6, 2010]<http://www.eoearth.org/article/Ecological_footprint>

External links


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