Tuesday, 16 April 2013


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


[edit] Causes

[edit] Consumerism

The human mind is extremely malleable, and consumers begin to be created from birth. Especially in America, children delight at the sight of a new toy. They spend many hours of their lives watching cartoons, which include consecutive toy commercials in between that easily attract such fragile and innocent minds. These commercials are carefully created by the study of consumer behavior; "The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society." Products are displayed as looking fun, cool, and a symbol of happiness. They quickly grow out of these toys, or break them. Those toys go into the garbage and into a landfill, among millions upon millions of other toys. And every year, millions of these children partake in Christmas; another huge consumer factor, which for many signifies not just religious ceremony, but more prominently in American culture, love for each other based on giving material things.[2]

[edit] Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is, by definition: "a method of stimulating consumer demand by designing products that wear out or become outmoded after limited use." This is a key factor of over consumption. While we have the capabilities, resources, and technology to create products that could last one a lifetime, producers do not practice this efficient idea because if they did, they would generate little profit and crumble under the competitive free market system. For Example, Apple releases a new iPhone every year, each being slightly improved than the last. Millions of people buy new and dispose of their old iPhones, once again contributing to global material pollution.[3]

[edit] The Monetary System

[edit] Effects

A fundamental effect of overconsumption 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 overconsumption 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 [4] and in the worst case a Malthusian catastrophe. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, has said: "It would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our present level of consumption. Environmentally, the world is in an overshoot mode."[5]

[edit] 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.[6] 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,

[edit] 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%.[7] 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]

[edit] The Trash Vortex

The North Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the trash vortex, is an area that resides in the North Pacific Ocean that is approximately the size of Texas. The patch came about by means of the rotational oceanic current of the North Pacific Gyre, which over time has trapped tons of plastic, chemicals, and other waste that disrupt and end the lives of marine wildlife constantly.

[edit] 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.

[edit] The Venus Project

The Venus Project is a potentially world changing idea created by Jacque Fresco.[citation needed] It is seen by some to be one of the most peaceful ways our society could operate as a whole. This idea is based on a high technology, resource based economy that would enrich everyone's lives because there would be no monetary system, means of bartering, or trading for goods. Therefore, production would be based solely on the needs of the human race. Technology would flourish and have no boundaries caused by the expense that money currently puts upon the creation of it. Over consumption would no longer be a worry in this system; which seems odd knowing that everything is priceless. Planned obsolescence would become obsolete in a resource based economy, because the technology is available to create lasting products, not continuous duplicates. Advanced transportation systems could be created as well; this would eliminate the need for everyone to own their own car because transportation would be a public service. Resources available, as well as the demand for them, could be tracked on a global scale allowing for equilibrium of production and distribution. The Venus Project would heighten all aspects of life, and the documentary Zeitgeist: The Movie as well as it's sequels Zeitgeist: Addendum and Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, thoroughly describe the current state of our planet and how Fresco's plan would change it.

[edit] Overconsumption in the USA

The United States uses double the resources that it produces, pulling from other countries to produce the goods for its population to consume. The goods are not just simple perishables like food, energy, and light building materials. The United States also consumes the most clothing items, metals, plastics, electronics, and even health hazardous chemicals. Here are a few examples of over consumption in the United States; According to Environmental Defense, “Americans own 30% of the world’s vehicles, but emit nearly half of the world’s vehicle CO2 emissions. We drive more and our cars are generally less efficient.”[8] Another interesting example is with the most abundant resource on earth. “The average North American uses 400 liters of water every day. The average person in the developing world uses 10 liters of water every day for their drinking, washing and cooking.”[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Diamond, Jared: (2008-01-02). "What's Your Consumption Factor?" The New York Times
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Effects of Over-Consumption and Increasing Populations. 26 September 2001. Retrieved on 19 June 2007
  5. ^ Brown, L. R. (2011). World on the Edge. Earth Policy Institute. Norton. p. 7. ISBN 987-0-393-08029-2 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  6. ^ 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 0-393-32666-7. OCLC 57470324. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  7. ^ Wackernagel, Mathis; Russ, Thomas (ed.) (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]
  8. ^ “The true cost of America’s love affair with the car.” Environmental Defense Magazine. Vol. 73 No. 5
  9. ^ “Water Use.” Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. (2011-11-22).

[edit] External links

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