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Environmental ills? It’s consumerism, stupid

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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plastic-painting-chris-jordanTwo typical German shepherds kept as pets in Europe or the U.S. consume more in a year than the average person living in Bangladesh, according to research by sustainability experts Brenda and Robert Vale of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. So are the world’s environmental ills really a result of the burgeoning number of humans on the planet—predicted to reach at least nine billion people by 2050? Or is it more due to the fact that although the human population has doubled in the past 50 years, we have increased our use of resources fourfold?

After all, the roughly 40,000 attendees of the recent climate conference in Copenhagen produced more greenhouse gas emissions in just two weeks than 600,000 Ethiopians produce in a year. In fact, the world’s richest 500 million people produce 50 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions compared to the 6 percent produced by the world’s poorest 3 billion—Americans alone use up 88 kilograms of stuff (such as food and water but also plastics, metals and other things) per day, or roughly one me, day in and day out.

As simply put by the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005: "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

chris-jordan-plastic-painting-closeupAnd consumerism isn’t even delivering on its own promise—a better life. "Not only is consumer culture causing unprecedented environmental havoc, it is in many cases not delivering the well-being for human beings it is supposed to," argued Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute during a press conference last week to release its new State of the World report, "Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability." "The kinds of changes in policy discussed at Copenhagen are also critical and, in fact, will go hand in hand with a cultural shift [from consumerism to sustainability.]"

What does he mean by a cultural shift? Well, for example, a change from current Western burial methods—injecting corpses with toxic chemicals, sealing them in expensive, non-degradable boxes that are then planted in cemeteries that maintain eternal greenness with fertilizers and pesticides—to burying loved ones in ways designed to heal families as well as the local environment (and ultimately turning these sites into natural reserves). "Two centuries of intentional cultivation of consumerism has led us to see it as perfectly natural to see ourselves primarily by what and how we consume," argued Erik Assadourian, lead author of the report for Worldwatch, whether that be McDonald’s hamburgers or Hummer vehicles.

The Worldwatch researchers identify six key institutions that must be changed to promote sustainability: education, business, media, government, social movements and cultural traditions. "It’s not a project out of whole new cloth," argued report co-author and political scientist Michael Maniates of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. "There are strong cultural elements that treasure things like frugality or thrift. We need to re-center conditions in culture that call out that within us that has been suppressed."

Nor is this cultural ethic of consumerism confined to the developed world; developing countries are adopting it as an economic model. "Consumerism is now spreading around the world," Assadourian added, noting that China, among other things, has surpassed the U.S. as the largest market for new cars as well as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. "Is this going to keep spreading? Or are countries going to start recognizing that this is not a good path?"

At the same time, a cultural shift may already be under way, represented by efforts such as those in Ecuador to enshrine rights for "Mother Earth" in the country’s constitution or those at U.S.-based carpet manufacturer Interface to create a product that requires using nothing from the natural world that the natural world cannot replace.

Generally speaking, however, such efforts have been swamped throughout the world in a rising tide of consumerism, especially surrounding the latest electronic gadgets. But perhaps lust for the latest iteration of Apple merchandise can be replaced with what serial inventor Saul Griffiths calls the "heirloom culture," products that last for a lifetime or beyond. "In essence, the disposable life will be replaced by a sustainable one," Assadourian said, "a world where machismo is not connected to the size of a car but the fact that you don’t have one at all."

In other words, it’s our consumer-driven economy, stupid. Oh, and the advertisers. "We are not stupid, we’re not ignorant, we don’t even necessarily have bad values with respect to the environment," Maniates added. "We’re trying to do our best within cultural systems that elevate unsustainable choices."

Of course, at the same time, Worldwatch would like you to spend $19.95 for a paperback version of its report, or $9.95 for a PDF or electronic document for your (yet another gadget) Kindle. Switching away from a capitalist ethic of consumerism continues to be easier said than done.

Images: Courtesy of Worldwatch Institute. Several million pounds of plastic enter the world’s oceans every hour, portrayed here by the 2.4 million bits of plastic that make up Gyre, Chris Jordan’s 8- by 11-foot reincarnation of the famous 1820s woodblock print, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.





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  1. 1. MisterA 10:53 am 01/22/2010

    NO, IT’S POPULATION, STUPID.

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  2. 2. MisterA 10:54 am 01/22/2010

    even my comments are breeding like people

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  3. 3. MisterA 10:57 am 01/22/2010

    Don’t get me wrong, consumerism stinks, technology should make richer nations more efficient but that’s not how capitalism works but even if we all lived like cavemen it would only delay the fateful day when we run out of resources because there are just too damn many of us.

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  4. 4. doug 1 11:28 am 01/22/2010

    It’s a question of quality not quantity. The quality that is most important in our modern social systems is the one that permits us to recycle and efficiently use the resources we have developed. This is what determines the number of people. There is no absolute carrying capacity for humans since technology became integral to our human life-styles. We are operating outside of the natural realm, no matter how ‘back to nature’ one may fancy themselves. What should be of concern instead is how to get the billions of peasants who are currently living on the land and creating considerable impact in their quest for cash and the material things of modern life, into urban setting where they can get what they want (security, conveniences, material objects and for their children medicine, education and a future better than what they had) and where we can capture what would otherwise be wasted, so that we can recycle that, while back in the de-populated rural settings, allowing habitat to re-consolidate itself, as it will, if left alone for an adequate period of time.
    Modern contemporary urban humans can feed themselves without using vast tracts of land as they used to, by using vertical farming techniques and low impact aquaculture, instead of turning wild systems into harvestable mono-cultureal crop land. Humans in the Amazon for thousands of years actually were agents of increase biodiversity by turning the so-called sterile paradise of the tropical jungle into productionve gardens selectively managed to provide the widest possible array of products. We can recycle non-renewable resources instead of discarding them. We can create hydrocarbons for fuel instead of constantly drawing down reserves. There really is a lot of space yet before humans must controll their population if, and it IS a BIG if, if we will work intelligently and systematically.

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  5. 5. niells 11:34 am 01/22/2010

    As resources become more scarce, their costs will increase, their consumption will decrease, and all of your dreams for a dystopian future will come true without any need for these clever fascist policies and the murder which is typically associated with their implementation.

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  6. 6. Soccerdad 12:00 pm 01/22/2010

    There are basically 2 types of people in the world. Those who consume a lot of resources, and those who would consume a lot of resources if they had the means. Such is the nature of mankind.

    The key is controlling the population because human nature will not change. If we don’t exploit a particular resource, someone else will.

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  7. 7. finnmcgowan 12:41 pm 01/22/2010

    @niells

    Nature is indeed self-correcting, and markets too. But neither is fair; the people that suffer most in a dystopian future won’t be the people who caused it.

    I’m not exactly sure what "fascist policies" and "murder" you refer to, but continuing to let rich people consume resources taken from other parts of the world, unrestrained, will result in poor people having less and less, and dying disproportionately.

    Freedom ends where it starts hurting others, and consumerism hurts others in very tangible ways.

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  8. 8. Philtron 12:43 pm 01/22/2010

    "There are basically 2 types of people in the world. Those who consume a lot of resources, and those who would consume a lot of resources if they had the means. Such is the nature of mankind."

    That’s basically the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Everyone must consume in some way, but that’s the natural cycle of all life. Are you trying to say everyone would be fat if they could be? Everyone would have 10 big tvs and drive hummers and have fun burning oil in their yards? Considering how many people are all for self sustainability – from agriculture to power – your logic is flawed.

    "The key is controlling the population because human nature will not change. If we don’t exploit a particular resource, someone else will."
    There’s no such thing as "human nature" only people’s nature, based on how you were brought up – what values do you hold? Of course many people are immorale a-holes who would sell their mother for a new car, but I don’t know a single person like that.

    Soccerdad, you’re a troll.

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  9. 9. abyssalmystery 1:32 pm 01/22/2010

    It seems to me that population control and conservation are both needed. I believe it is irresponsible to have more than two children in this day and age. I also believe that we need to get our consumerism under control. At the same time I don’t plan to live like an Ethiopian. Frankly, I am getting a bit tired of the constant guilt trips placed on Americans for their lifestyle.

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  10. 10. jgdalal 1:36 pm 01/22/2010

    I believe rather worrying about whether the message is heard by Everyone, the key is, those who have heard it start putting in to practice individually. The impact one individual would make may be minuscule but think about how many of us have heard it already!

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  11. 11. Soccerdad 1:39 pm 01/22/2010

    Philtron,

    My point stands. People have a tendancy to always want more than they have. That’s the purpose of an economic system – to allocate limited goods in the face of unlimited demand. How many people do you know that work hard so they can have less? How many in Nigeria or Haiti do you think would stick to their spartan way of life if offered the chance to have a big house and a Hummer? There are a few in our land of plenty that will chose to live well below their means – but not many. Even those claiming to live sustainably typically live in some sort of house, commute, fly on vacation etc. Wanting more than you have is human nature, pure and simple. If you argue against that you sir are simply mistaken.

    I’ll avoid the name calling that you seem to prefer.

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  12. 12. jerryd 2:40 pm 01/22/2010

    No Soccerdad having more is not human nature but a taught learning by Madison Ave. And the article is talking exactly about people like you.

    What is human nature is having shelter, clothing, food, family, friends and some entertainment.

    Happiness is not had by material things but by having and caring about those around you, your family and friends. The happiest people I’ve ever met were on So Cacios Islands that had just small tin shacks, happy to give you whatever you needed. Their needs met by fishing, gardening and free health care, they had little to do but help others, enjoy themselves.

    Vs in the US how many are happy? Most are so stressed by the mortgage, utility, car, credit card bills they can’t be happy, working all the time so little left to enjoy.

    Facts are most of us have too much stuff, much of it low quality that it has to be replaced often.

    Now the smart ones bought modest homes, paid them off in 10 yrs, buy used eff, modest cars and share things like simple sailboats, tools, other things with others. These kind of people only need to work 20hrs/week, have no debt bills and have the time to fish, play sports, hobbies, family, dinners with friends at home, etc.

    They buy long lasting quality things like all wood furniture, preferably used and other needed things that once bought, last 20-50 yrs+. Another is buy a 25 yr old car, fix it up and enjoy it for decades while it’s value rises instead of losing 20% of a new cars value driving it off the lot.

    There is smart, happy people and grumps, wasters like you.

    And these people can retire at 50 having more time to travel cheaply in say a sailboat at very low cost. I did ;^D

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  13. 13. niells 3:00 pm 01/22/2010

    When you are done implementing your final "fair" solution without killing any dissenters, come back and let’s talk about the absurdity of imagining "fascist policies" and "murder" might have been required to make it happen.

    At that time, we can also have a hands-holding heart to heart about "human nature."

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  14. 14. jgdalal 3:05 pm 01/22/2010

    Rather than worry about how many have received the message, I believe it is time for those who have "received it" start individually acting on it. Individual effort may seem minuscule but think who may contributors. Remember the saying, "a large lake fills drop by drop"!

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  15. 15. jgdalal 3:08 pm 01/22/2010

    Do read as "how many contributors".

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  16. 16. Marcello09 3:09 pm 01/22/2010

    Soccerdad is right. It’s likely that evolution has trained us to consume and stockpile as much as possible during times of plenty so that we’ll be better prepared for times of scarcity — which makes a lot of sense, considering the environment that we’ve been evolving in for the last 50,000 years (or whatever).

    The problem, of course, is that in some societies the times of plenty are longer, more frequent, and more plentiful and the times of scarcity are fewer, shorter, and less austere. Evolution didn’t prepare us for this scenario, for the simple reason that this scenario has never existed before.

    Of course, evolution has also provided us with the ability to see problems coming and, hopefully, the sense to avoid them before things become catastrophic.

    But we need to be realistic about what we’re dealing with: the impulse to consume is not cultural. It’s human nature, and it existed existed long before Madison Avenue. To pretend otherwise is dangerously naive.

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  17. 17. WRQ9 3:20 pm 01/22/2010

    It would seem appropriate at this time to mention "junk mail" and packaging trends before attacking
    directly the quality of products. I’m not defending recent engineering standards, it costs more to build these temporary fixes than it would to engineer the quality of reusability. I simply think that taking care of one obvious issue will lead to a more energized front against these other, more complicated arguments. A sensible alternative might be a good place to start!
    We are being manhandled, to a degree, by big business. Given a choice, most people would select a product that will retain it’s usefulness. The elimination of that choice is a fabricated circumstance, designed to perpetuate sales and limit secondary markets. The issue is what to do about it. Can we spank the bad boy and leave the well intended unharmed?
    That kind of action creates it’s own megalomaniacs. Therein lies the rub. The idiots seem to hop the fence, and the only way to be sure you’ve gone far enough, is by going too far.
    The new agers have made their bones maligning fascism till they quietly become it. Is destruction really the only way to remedy a few socially prominent, narcissistic morons bent on economic domination?
    Availability of local advertising, responsibility in packaging? Who are we talking about? It’s not me.

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  18. 18. FollowFacts 3:37 pm 01/22/2010

    The Third Reich referred to a similar program as “lebensunwertes leben” (life unworthy of life) and “dasein ohne leben” (existence without life).

    More recently: "Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make." – Farquaad (Shrek)
    http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Shrek.html

    You first.

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  19. 19. sofistek 3:40 pm 01/22/2010

    It’ll be interesting to read that World Watch report because I find almost no-one understands the consequences of sustainability (i.e. not consuming resources beyond their renewal rates and not degrading our habitat). The quote about the Interface carpet services company is a case in point. Are they proposing to make no profit? Profit is a driver for growth and growth is about consuming increasing amounts of resources. Efficiency is great and will help but, when it comes down to it, economic growth requires increasing resource consumption. A sustainable economy cannot grow and an economy that is designed to have no growth will be nothing like today’s. A sustainable society will be nothing like today’s.

    The poster who said it’s in human nature to consume and consume may not be right. Hunter-gatherer societies consisted of Homo Sapiens and yet lived long sustainable lives, apparently quite healthily and happily, even such societies that survived until quite recently, before "civilized people" discovered them.

    Our problem is the consumerism is endemic. It’s a message that is pushed on to us, implicitly and explicitly, from everywhere. It’s so much part of our lives that it’s regarded as "natural", and something that can be sustained for ever.

    Re-educating people to sustainable ways will be extremely difficult and, I think, near to impossible. Hence, collapse is virtually certain.

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  20. 20. Tan Boon Tee 9:14 pm 01/22/2010

    Consumerism is synonymous to capitalism. Perpetual and excessively indiscriminating consumerism (especially energy) could well lead to the demise of capitalism. The current economic crisis serves as a good lesson for all.
    The extravagant use and waste of energy has led to the worsening of environmental ills that may not be reversible. This must be real worrying. Instead of lamenting later, why not save energy now?
    Please live a simple and prudent live, it pays.

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  21. 21. tjostemj 11:14 pm 01/22/2010

    Nuclear energy is the abundant, safe, and clean alternative to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels harm our environment, our health, and make us dependent on foreign countries that don’t like us. Our economy can’t stand the escalating costs for depleting fossil fuels. We need to make haste to develop new generation nuclear reactors that can make energy at a lower cost than dirty coal. Climate change makes this need especially urgent. Energy is wealth. It should not be wasted.

    Breeder reactors like the IFA and the LFTR can provide bountiful cheap energy for as long as people will inhibit planet Earth. These safe and clean energy sources offer the possibility of providing industrialization to all the peoples of the planet. Since women in developed countries have freedom and do not need to bare children to do the farm labor and provide for themselves in old age, the birth rate goes negative when industrialization takes place. Our world population may peak at or below 9 billion and then fall back. If we can manage to sustain a population size that is beyond the long term carrying capacity of the planet for a few score of years we may be able to arrive at a population level that is sustainable in the long term.

    On the other hand any drastic reduction in energy will result in less goods for domestic use and for export. That approach is a recipe for a rapid decent to becoming a third world country.

    The developing world is best served by our maintaining our goods consumption level. As get cheap nuclear energy to operate their factories they make goods that improves their lifestyles and their sales of goods to consuming developed countries benefits both the developed and under developed countries. We have a choice, either we develop safe, clean, cheap alternatives to fossil fuel which will bring up the living standard of the underdeveloped people of the world or we reduce energy consumption and force all the people of the world to be third world. The latter choice will be accompanied by a population crash of catastrophic proportions.

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  22. 22. spiritwithin 4:19 am 01/23/2010

    We have destroyed the balance of which the Earth has provided for longer than any specie. We are blind in believing that we have disrupted this balance, because we strive to believe we are the most intelligent of creatures, the ones who make all of the decisions, for all of the problems. But we are the problem, and the raging complexity of society and civilization we have created is causing innumerable effects. The ones who understand and live a simple, but enlightened life, are the only ones who will not "evolve" into robots.

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  23. 23. spiritwithin 4:19 am 01/23/2010

    We have destroyed the balance of which the Earth has provided for longer than any specie. We are blind in believing that we have disrupted this balance, because we strive to believe we are the most intelligent of creatures, the ones who make all of the decisions, for all of the problems. But we are the problem, and the raging complexity of society and civilization we have created is causing innumerable effects. The ones who understand and live a simple, but enlightened life, are the only ones who will not "evolve" into robots.

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  24. 24. pokerplyer 9:56 am 01/23/2010

    I think several here are missing a basic scientific point of the article that was lost in all the consumerism babble written later. The statement was:

    "while the human population has doubled in the past 50 years, we have increased our use of resources four-fold"

    In that time period, the increased use of resources has been by those who previously had not been using them and their population desired to have the benefits of technology that required said resources. Between 1960 and today, people in parts of the globe that had not been using resources on a "high per person" basis were given access to resources that had not been previously available. In those areas, two events happen- the population grew at an accelerated rate, and per person use of resources increased.

    Personally, I believe that it is basic human nature. Probably the only place on the planet where this trend was moderated was in China, where the state intervened to stem the population growth. Look at the per person use of energy/resources today in a place like Japan……and multiply it by the total current or estimated population of the planet. That is the energy/resources that needs to be produced to meet "human natures desires".

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  25. 25. robert schmidt 11:54 am 01/23/2010

    This may be an over simplistic solution but in the 80s, while taking accounting in high school, I had the idea that every step in the commercial process should be environmentally a zero sum transaction. All the costs both financial and environmental should be covered. So, the Mine that extracts raw materials should charge not only for the cost of extraction but the cost of reclamation of the materials sold and rehabilitation of the extraction site. The sale price at the retailer should cover the costs not only of the goods but of taking back the goods at the end of their useful life as well as the disposal of packaging. The way it works now is that consumers pay directly for the cost of creation but pay through their taxes for the costs associated with disposal, reclamation and restoration. As we all hate paying taxes, and punish governments that raise taxes by not voting for them, we get governments that defer these issues to other governments, so the problems are never addressed and here we are. By charging for everything up front, the consumer can choose if the product is really worth the expense. All that cheap crap at Walmart would suddenly become twice the price where as quality products that are designed to last would become affordable. I called this "Real Cost Accounting" but I’m sure I’m not the first to think of it and have heard of many similar proposals since then. I believe the Green Party has this as part of their platform.

    If the consumer is given a choice between what they can afford and what will sit best on their conscience, as is proposed by the "buy green" campaigns, most will go for what is affordable and find ways to reconcile the moral and/or deferred "pain" issues. If we take away the moral issue at time of purchase, then compliance is a non-issue. Note that this can also apply to other issues such as fair labour practices and human rights issues. We in the west tend to think we have abolished slave labour when in fact we just outsourced it.

    When you think of the litter that lines the highways, how much of that is material that has a value, such as returnable bottles? Likely, next to none. If all garbage had a value, there would be none to find. If I purchase something and have to pay a deposit which is refundable when I return the product and packaging at the end of its life then I am less likely to dispose of it in an environmentally unfriendly or uncontrolled manner, but even if I do, there will be someone else who will gladly pick it up and claim the refund.

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  26. 26. robert schmidt 11:55 am 01/23/2010

    Part 2

    While one can blame or problems on consumerism, from a psychological perspective one can say it is ultimately about cost and reward. If the cost of bad behaviour is low and the reward high, we will have bad behaviour, i.e. cheap goods that end up in land fill a year later. If the cost of good behaviour is high and the reward low than we won’t have good behaviour, it costs money and time to take things to the dump with the only reward being a clean conscience. It is obvious then that bad behaviour should have a higher cost than good behaviour.

    Our societies are built around these costs. Suburbs exist because fuel and cars are cheap and land in cities is expensive. If consumers paid the full cost of both the fuel and the car then suburbs would not be so attractive and urban centres would be designed differently.

    The devil is always in the details. How would a system like this be implemented? Organizations like insurance companies would cover the costs of reclamation charging mines, etc., a premium during operation then paying to have the land returned to it’s natural state. Goods would have a deposit based on weight and type which is how many landfills work now except that instead of paying to bring garbage to the landfill, you would actually get paid the deposit for the return. Retail outlets would also accept obsolete items and emptied delivery vehicles would be filled with goods to be returned and reprocessed by manufacturers.

    A number of years ago I was returning to Canada with a box of fossils on loan from a museum. At the border the guard asked the value of the fossils. I said they were just rocks and had no value. He said, "Everything on this planet has a value," I said, "Ok, $1" and he said, “Fine, go ahead". If everything really did have a value, including every rock, every tree and every piece of garbage, and if we had to pay the real cost of exploiting those resources, we would do so in a responsible and sustainable manner. A resource with no cost has an infinite demand. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a resource with an infinite supply.

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  27. 27. istar75 3:15 pm 01/23/2010

    A good comparison for the earth is a bottle of wine: Take a bottle of northern Europe or California. It is usually not sweet because the bacteria consumed the sugar and rejected alcool, they multiplied and when there was no more sugar, they died of hunger.
    Take a wine from a warmer place with lots of sugar, It is sweet because the bacteria consumed some of the sugar and rejected alcool until the alcool concentration killed them (before they exhausted the sugar.)
    Anyone having observed crowd knows that we human react differently when taken individually than when taken as part of crowd. This is why in spite of us being aware of the ecological problem we are completely unable to do anything about it. We will go down and the planet will recover without us…

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  28. 28. i8bugs 5:26 pm 01/23/2010

    Save the Planet- Kill A German Shepherd.

    Response to this article can be found here:
    http://www.redstate.com/i8bugs/2010/01/23/save-the-planet-kill-a-german-shepherd/

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  29. 29. i8bugs 5:33 pm 01/23/2010

    I had no idea till now how many eugenicists are in the scientific community till I visited this site.

    Thank God and our founding fathers the 2nd Amendment so when you decide I don’t fit in your Utopian world you’ll think twice.

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  30. 30. karmabites 11:01 am 01/24/2010

    It’s clear you didn’t understand the article based on your moronic response (which isn’t surprising, coming from a website like redstate), so I’ll try to explain it to you without the scary statistics that confused you so terribly:

    The intention of the SA article was to highlight how much waste a capitalist culture produces – the imbalance between consumption versus replenishment of resources – as opposed to a culture in which uses much fewer resources, and resources are used used much more wisely.

    The dog comparison was to simply say that a PET in one culture produces more waste than another human being in a different culture.

    We have a culture in which allows possessions to be disposable. The article suggests that we should change that kind of thinking — the goods we make should be made to last a very long time, aka sustainability.

    It’s obvious Americans produce a ridiculous amount of waste — and why? It’s because the consumerist culture by nature encourages consumption… the philosophy is that, instead of reusing or recycling, we can merely throw away what we no longer want. And as the article highlights, this is irresponsible and damages the environment.

    All in all, the article merely says that we should change the way we look at the products we consume, and producers should make products that encourage sustainability — products that LAST instead of products we pitch and forget about.

    If you disagree with this, the only reason why is because you’re simply an idiot — and I believe it, based on what I’ve just read.

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  31. 31. pokerplyer 12:59 pm 01/24/2010

    Karma

    You said: "the article merely says that we should change the way we look at the products we consume, and producers should make products that encourage sustainability — products that LAST instead of products we pitch and forget about.

    If you disagree with this, the only reason why is because you’re simply an idiot — and I believe it, based on what I’ve just read."

    While I agree with your statement that producers should make products that encourage sustainability — products that LAST instead of products we pitch and forget about. I do not see the article as "merely" saying that at all. The article seems to me to incorrectly (in my opinion) blame consumerism for the world’s environmental problems, vs the degree of population growth, and that population’s demands for energy (in the forms of food, water, and electricity).

    This conclusion is not supported by more than the writer’s opinion. Regardless of the economic model being used by the nation states developing around the globe, there has been and will continue to be a massive increase in demand for energy in developing regions.

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  32. 32. Marcello09 7:11 pm 01/24/2010

    "If you disagree with this, the only reason why is because you’re simply an idiot"

    When all else fails…

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  33. 33. finnmcgowan 10:11 am 01/25/2010

    This argumentative technique is called the "red herring". With a dash of liberal-bashing sarcasm thrown in.

    You are using the wrong strategy for this audience. Try presenting facts, or ideas, rather than logically fallacious political tripe.

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  34. 34. eco-steve 1:09 pm 01/25/2010

    The main problem is the free market. The free market presupposes free choice of products for consumers. For most of the world that choice is simply by force one of buying the cheapest product available to be able to survive at all. Yet GMo’s clearly show that consumers don’t generally realise that seed monopolies will eventually force prices up, as well as destroying the very biodiversity that science needs to produce new GMo’s…
    Should consumers worldwide have the freedom of choice to buy anti-aircraft missiles on the free arms market? Clearly the answer is no. We need to make properly informed decisions, that free-marketeers maliciously label as state nterventionism…

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  35. 35. sunnystrobe 10:00 am 01/26/2010

    Consumerism is as old as mankind; it derives originally from our primate survival instincts in foraging for food resources , such as seasonal plantfood, like fruits and berries.
    When this primal nutritional need is not satisfied, the search goes on, and on, in an ever more obsessive-compulsive fashion. This can also be the origin of addiction of all sorts.
    It was Socrates who said he visited the markets only to check what he did NOT need!
    We , too, must learn to buck the trend of the market by daring to be different, by NOT keeping up with the Jones,
    and thereby being the superior social animals!
    For a a personal& global health& wealth-restoring lifestyle change, visit: Youthevity.com

    Link to this
  36. 36. mo98 11:46 am 01/26/2010

    If we don’t produce, we consume. If producers consolidate, consumers proliferate. Maybe we will switch to home grown and edible iphones.

    Link to this
  37. 37. horsedrag 8:17 pm 01/26/2010

    Capitalism will succumb to the diminishing energy supplies it’s so desperately pursuing. No energy, no growth, no growth no capitalism. The way to the future may be found by looking back 100 years to a time before oil.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Kahldog 10:08 pm 01/27/2010

    It would appear from this statement that we are truly doomed in either case and that we really don’t have any choice.I hope that we have more intellectual capabilities than to simply accept this fate.

    Link to this
  39. 39. Kahldog 10:10 pm 01/27/2010

    It would appear that we are doomed in either case if this statement is entirely true.I hope that we have more intellectual capabilities to overcome than simply accepting defeat.

    Link to this
  40. 40. Paul T. 12:01 am 01/29/2010

    Is there anyone out there speaking up about over population??
    Men are impregnating women….
    Women are pumping out the babies…..
    Sadly, many of these babies are destined for a life of poverty….
    I do not blame either the men or the women….their biology is what it is…..
    I just hope it is not a "church" that is suppressing the use of condoms and sterilization.

    Link to this
  41. 41. maclir2001 1:43 am 01/29/2010

    What part of too many people, period, on this planet, does anyone not yet understand? There’re few problems in this world that 4-5 billions fewer of us would not solve, no matter how much "stuff" we each have. How about a massive campaign for all of us, around the world, to have no more than ONE child per family, if any, for the next one hundred years, starting now, and give financial incentives to promote small families and taxes as penalties for those who refuse to stop reproducing?

    Link to this
  42. 42. Kahldog 4:42 am 01/29/2010

    So who should be selected to not bear children, the rich or the poor?This was tried in China, who still has the largest single country population on earth and who actively aborts children if it is determined that it is female.I believe it is well documented what happens to a particular species that puts too much negative pressure on it’s environment.Partial or full extinction is usually the result.Maybe there is hope for mankind because of it’s cognitive abilities to recognize problems and come up with solutions.

    Link to this
  43. 43. Georgy 3:26 am 02/2/2010

    , – . . !
    . .

    All appears, as soon as a population will confide in – that at burning is the source of heat. We understood. It is a not carbon!
    For complete ecology it is needed to prepare a cluster fuel. It to do we are already able

    Link to this
  44. 44. reddog418 6:37 am 02/2/2010

    This is a silly article that completely ignores a fundamental truth: simply "getting by" is not what humans have grown to be. Sure, 600,000 ethiopians can get by on the same resources as 40,000 westerners, but how exactly are these Ethiopians getting by? They don’t live very long because their health care is abysmal if not nonexistent. Their nutrition is below any sort of standard that most wildlife enjoy. Is that living? Using just enough to get by isn’t, by any means, enough. The consistent advancement of humanity depends on consumerism. How many times has a new product served as a stepping stone for the future? For example, Windows created an entirely new world that has spawned countless innovations. I believe we are at a critical point in our history where technology has the possibility of creating an infinitely sustainable future. Take, for instance, fusion power. Renewable energy is cute and yes can be cheap, but the ultimate goal is harnessing the power of the sun to drive our lives. We are not meant to be a sustainable species. We are meant to consume, to expand, and to move on. Once our technology advances enough, we will be able to do just that without limit.

    Link to this
  45. 45. reddog418 6:38 am 02/2/2010

    This is a silly article that completely ignores a fundamental truth: simply "getting by" is not what humans have grown to be. Sure, 600,000 ethiopians can get by on the same resources as 40,000 westerners, but how exactly are these Ethiopians getting by? They don’t live very long because their health care is abysmal if not nonexistent. Their nutrition is below any sort of standard that most wildlife enjoy. Is that living? Using just enough to get by isn’t, by any means, enough. The consistent advancement of humanity depends on consumerism. How many times has a new product served as a stepping stone for the future? For example, Windows created an entirely new world that has spawned countless innovations. I believe we are at a critical point in our history where technology has the possibility of creating an infinitely sustainable future. Take, for instance, fusion power. Renewable energy is cute and yes can be cheap, but the ultimate goal is harnessing the power of the sun to drive our lives. We are not meant to be a sustainable species. We are meant to consume, to expand, and to move on. Once our technology advances enough, we will be able to do just that without limit.

    Link to this
  46. 46. pokerplyer 1:57 pm 02/3/2010

    Responding to this comment: Capitalism will succumb to the diminishing energy supplies it’s so desperately pursuing.

    What economicmodel has been shown to be more effective than a moderated democatic capitolism????

    Link to this
  47. 47. keith 1:45 am 02/17/2010

    First of all, I am not expert in Economy, but I do read fairly a lot of economy articles and so on… I think that there are a particular perspective that we might have not ever have any thoughts about this.
    The word of "Economics" by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition as it stated, "The social science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and with the theory and management of economies or economic systems."
    In other word, it is the study of "scarcity" as "Supply and Demand" as we see in the core of Capitalism.

    The etymology of "Scarcity" seems not being consistent in check between the economy and the findings of our environment hazards. What do I meant by this is that the "generalised consumerism" we, westerners, usually act are not able to adapt well into our life. People always polarised the "economy" IN the "monetary" means, not the "necessaries".

    I hate to say that, but I think that the social policies are required to beef up with our lives; like it or not, but the idea of democracy is starting to put to the test for our fate.

    Let’s look at PRC, they mobilised the effort with the green with an astonished pace…

    Link to this
  48. 48. keith 1:48 am 02/17/2010

    reddog418…. I think you need to learn more about the Ethiopia. The way you described about Ethiopia looks like if it is Darfur… It would be cool if you know your facts before put a post on this wall.

    Link to this
  49. 49. keith 1:56 am 02/17/2010

    Look at ecology… There are actually almost every living creatures consumed other living creatures’ waste.

    I think that Human Being is setting ourselves apart from the VERY ecology of ALL living creatures and the earth’s.

    Therefore, We should have people who specialised in consume our wastes… such as people work on landfill to find any good materials that could use again or any old electronics gadgets into something else. .. Just like the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010′s medals.

    what do you think of this?

    Link to this
  50. 50. Georgy 12:40 pm 02/17/2010

    humanity consumes all 1% produced green energy. A resource recommences. It is necessary diligently to engage in cultivation of plants and utilization of green wastes. It is our prospect.

    Link to this
  51. 51. angiemestre 9:29 pm 04/15/2012

    In the words of Henry Thoreau “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”

    Is it possible for humans to do anything in moderation? I argue: No. We inherently must venture to all extremes in every aspect of life. Whether it be the ‘infinite’ scope of technology or the meager trivialness of fashion, humans need the BEST. This is a testament not only to society as a group of competitive consumers, but as an individually self-centered people. If not for living in the virtue of simplicity, why can’t we at least think of the future generations who will curse our wasteful names? It’s interesting how the attempt to become a more advanced and civilized species has brought out the savage in each of us.

    Is it possible for humans to do anything in moderation? No. We build and we will continue to build. We will continue to create. We will continue to buy, throw away, buy, throw away. Therefore, the entire global cultural mindset has to do a giant 360 before we even begin to salvage what is left of this Earth. We are consumer-holics and its time to quit cold turkey.

    As daunting as it sounds, simplicity is the answer.

    Link to this
  52. 52. NicholasBrush 11:06 am 09/25/2014

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  53. 53. NicholasBrush 8:58 am 11/4/2014

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