VC501 – Design Manifesto: Enough Is Enough

The End of Consumerism – Our way of Life Isn’t Viable

The developed countries are a fifth of the world’s total population, and we consume more than our fair shair of the world’s resources. Consumerism encourages us to aspire to more than that share, regardless of the consequences.

The USA consumes 30% of the world’s resources, with only 6% of the the world’s population. 20% of the worlds population consumes over 70% of its material resources, and owns over 80% of its wealth, although this global elite includes people in almost every country, it is mainly concentrated in the Westernised, consumerist nations: The USA, Canada, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Japan.

The world already produces enough grain alone to supply every single individual with over 2,500 calories per day: this figure does not even include fruit, groundnuts or root vegetables. In this sense the world cannot in any meaningful sense be said to be overpopulated. Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central America and Pacific Rim islands are often referred to as having too high a population. But few of the countries in these regions has a significantly higher population density than Britain, Japan, Germany or the Netherlands, where only a tiny percentage of the population is undernourished. The majority of impoverished countries have population densities far below these examples. Even Ethiopia, Mozambique and Bangladesh, countries seen as almost synonymous with overpopulation and scarcity, have the agricultural resources to feed their people.
What causes global hunger is not a shortage of resources, but the unequal distribution of those resources in favour of the rich. No solution to world poverty can ignore this basic fact: putting an end to it will inevitably involve a fairer distribution of the world’s food, resources and wealth. This is not compatible with the consumerist creed of ever-increasing consumption.
The simple example of the car illustrates this point. Less than an eighth of the world’s adult population own a car. This many cars (450 million vehicles) is already responsible for 13% of the global carbon emissions from the burning off fossil fuels, and a larger share of the production of acid rain. If every adult or family in the world owned a car, these emission levels would be beyond any technological solution. Some future fuel efficiency technology might possibly double or treble how far a car can travel on a gallon of fuel, but this would not be enough to bring the emission levels within safe limits. A fuel efficiency increase of twenty times the present rate would be needed to cope with a world wide car density similar to our own, and this is only to keep Pollution levels at the same rate as they are now, let alone reducing them . And a twenty- fold increase in petrol efficiency is beyond the laws of thermodynamics. Since the same mathematics applies to almost all other pollution producing consumer goods or practices, we are in effect faced with a simple choice.

 Sections of this post are sourced from:
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-end-of-consumerism-our-way-of-life-is-not-viable-1863278.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jun/14/collaborative-consumption
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