Increasing Consumption Threatens The World with Ecological Debt

A study by the new economics foundation (nef) reveals that we are depleting the good old earth way too fast in an unsustainable manner in the name of economics versus ecological debt. Do you know that we are consuming more than what this planet can ever replenish? Ironically,even the recent economic depression could not reduce our consumption of the world’s resources. We indeed owe an “ecological debt” which we possibly cannot repay to mother earth. While the political leaders are focus on revamping the global  economy, they are overlooking (ignoring) the fact that the soaring consumption rate can threaten the very existence of human kind.

The national leaders are asking people to start their businesses with new enthusiasm. However, they are undermining the importance of life support systems. We can overcome a recessive economy but no fiscal policy can repair a ruined ecosystem.

The study by nef warns us about the dwindling self sufficiency in food supply as observed in many countries across the globe. Additionally, a lot of European countries are also helpless without overseas energy supply. The chaos in Libya these past few wees have sent fuel prices soaring and the world feels the impact of political unrest. The study also highlights a surprising discrepancy between the energy consumed by the rich and the marginalized people. Just 7% of the world population, arguably well off people, is responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emitted every year. Looking at the top consumers of oil by country, the USA and European Union, in 2007, consumed ~35 billion of the ~85 billion (about 40%) barrels of oil consumed by the entire world at that time.  Sounds unjustified, doesn’t it?

The report draws our attention to the fact that improvements in science have indeed raised the health standards as well as increased the life span of people. This in turn has enhanced the total consumption of resources. When consumption crosses a point in time, it will adversely affect people’s health.

To attain a sustainable and improved standard of living, the study says, we emphasize on civic and community life as well as those issues which help people to be happy and healthy in the long run. Judging by this standard,It is not difficult to ascertain that most countries would appear to be employing an ecologically unsustainable model. For instance, the average family in the U.K used 17 household appliances in the 1970’s. This number is three times that figure right now. This kind of growth rate can be disastrous because it cannot be maintained over time and will deplete natural resources faster than we can imagine.

ecological debt
Given our current predicament, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has emphasized the need to think beyond GDP. To increase the quality of life we would need to access an economy by considering numerous sustainability conditions and not financial factors alone, says Sarakozy.  Quite clearly, economic growth should not come at the cost of ravaging the environment causing an ecological debt snowball. The consumerist approach and highly financial focus might have endowed some people with a lot of wealth but in the process we have been increasing ecological destruction to an alarming extent.

It’s high time for us to lead a balanced life and bring down the consumption of natural resources. A minor percentage of the population is consuming the majority of the earth’s resources. This inequality must end in order to improve the quality of life uniformly across the globe and to reduce the ecological debt we have blindly created in the name of capitalism.

photo credit: credit: kevindooley

10 thoughts on “Increasing Consumption Threatens The World with Ecological Debt

  1. Very well said Kevin.

    “The consumerist approach and highly financial focus might have endowed some people with a lot of wealth but in the process we have been increasing ecological destruction to an alarming extent.”

    And to that I would add that “moral destruction” It seems as we lose our connection to the earth, we are also losing our connection to each other and to God (substitue whatever higher power resonates with you).

    There are many families I know who are conscious of this and make noble efforts within their families and communities to slow the pace of this destruction. But are tiny islands in a raging river, and at times it feels that the current is so strong it is just hopeless. Yet they, and we, persist.

    I hope I will never lose the faith I have in humanity. In our spirit and resourcefulness. In our committment. Much as I cringe when I see a plasma screen TV on the wall in every room in so many homes, I am in awe that we humans have created such wonders and made them so easily accessible to the masses.

    I just got back from a trip with my kids to Kennedy Space Center. I was never sure how I felt about the “benefits” of exploring space, but while I was there, I could barely contain the sense of wonder at all we had achieved and at the seemingly boundless curiosity and creativity of the human spirit.

    Clearly, if we can do reach the heights we have in terms of scientific, technological, medical (etc) advances, we can do anything we set our minds to. Every voice like yours raises awareness of our dire situation and I pray will lead to a better world for our children.

    As an aside: the link on your author credit is dead…I tried to follow it because I liked your article very much & wanted to read more. Ultimately I figured out the error in the link, and found darngoodblogging.com, is that you? If so, don’t hide, put your name on everything you write, you’re really good! May I gently suggest you could benefit from some good proofreading, though, to really polish your work. Good Luck!

  2. Great post Kevin. You hit the nail on the head. Society has gone to far with needing “stuff” to function. I liked that UK appliance fact you gave. Really sent the message. How sad is it that people can’t function on less than 45 appliances a day. We need to start living as the pioneers did; simple and with little help. We can do things on our own they may just take longer and is that so bad? I do hope people wake up soon and really see what their lifestyle is doing to the environment.

  3. The majority of people will never change their way unless something drastic happens. Life is just too comfortable to change.
    Even those of us who try to consume less are still using a lot of resources comparing to people in poor countries. I don’t see a way out of this ever increasing consumption.

    1. Change can only occur after at least some discussion RB40. The fact people read this site gives us hope!
      I know Mrs. SPF and I use a remarkably low amount of energy and our carbon footprint is tiny – but that is due to lifestyle choices such as buying a house that is “walkable” to shopping and work, that we don’t have a McMansion or travel on planes. We try to buy local and get a lot of our food locally etc etc. It seems more and more people are doing such things in North America (as compared to even 10 years ago). Hope hope hope!

      check out this calculator and calculate your carbon footprint (the detailed version is best)

      1. That’s a pretty cool quiz. They said I need 5 planets….
        How many did you get?
        We live in a 1,000 sq ft. high rise in the middle of the city. Our energy usage is low. We share laundry room. We recycle almost everything that we could. We share one car and take public transportation. Even with this lifestyle, we still need 5 planets in the quiz.

        I agree many more people are trying, but it doesn’t seem like that’s enough.

        1. We need 3.7 planets if we use the USA but 2.5 if we use Calgary (and we live in Ontario, Canada! so not accurate).
          Our thing is that we rarely need to use our car or use any type of transportation (save our bikes), we don’t travel, eat a lot of local food. 1 car, low power bills.

          The best we can do is try. I sleep better trying than throwing our arms up in the air and saying forget it!

  4. We need to make the resource users pay more for it as it will force them to reduce their consumption. Just like paying a deposit for aluminum cans encourages the user to bring it back for recycling and recovering his money. There must be a way to build on this model.

    1. Hi there BTI. Agreed. Time of Use TOU electric (and gas) Metering is a great start IMO but it needs to work properly and be planned carefully. Check out our article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *