Thursday, April 26, 2007

end of the first world

Perhaps some of you comfort yourself with the notion that, if the first world collapses due to lack of resources, it will be rebuilt. Well, I saw Jarrod Diamond speak yesterday, and he assured us that it's not so. In response to a question about the future of the world if a collapse--which he sees an inevitable if we do not shape up, and fast--he said, "Here's probably what it will look like: an end of the first world as we know it. Who will survive? Places like New Guinea, countries that are self-sustaining. Is the USA self-sustaining? Obviously no, not even close. Will the first world be rebuilt? Impossible, because our complex systems necessitated copper, tin, and other metals which we've fully mined. They are no longer in the earth."

And here's another scary idea. Diamond believes there are 12 crisis-level problems dogging the earth now. Here are a few: climate change, population expansion (especially in developing nations, where more resources are consumed), top soil erosion, overfishing, over-logging, lack of fresh water. When asked, "Is climate change the number one problem facing the environment today?" he replied, "No, I don't believe so. All 12 problems I've outlined are equally earth threatening." Got that? Climate change is 8% of the problem.

Here's one more scary piece of information for you. Whose fault, would you guess, are all these crises? Well, they're everyone's fault--but mostly, they're ours. Why? Well, we Americans consume on average 32 times (yes, thirty-two times) as much as people in the developing world. That means that every child born in the USA is 32 times worse for the environment than every child born in Kenya. In other words, we are ruining this planet for everyone. What can you do to stop it? I don't know, though I hear quitting meat can help, since meat is a complete waste of resources--a cow, after all, uses 10 times as much food as it produces. Also, you can recycle--unless you live in New York, where recycling is nearly impossible. Do you know where people recycle well? In Europe, where, amazingly, living standards are just as high as America, but they only consume 1/2 of what we do.

Okay, I feel somewhat better now.


Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

One bright note (maybe) is that population expansion is maybe not such a problem as we think. I had always thought humans would just keep growing and growing and growing, but apparently most demographic experts think the human population will plateau at around 10 or 11 billion in about 50 years. That's still a lot of people, but various factors make it unlikely that it will continue growing exponentially after that.

magwitch the gruff australian said...

According to Diamond, population is only a big problem because so many countries want to become first world--most notable, India and China. If China were to develop into a first world nation and NOTHING ELSE WERE TO CHANGE, then the earth would be using double the recourses we use now. This obviously cannot happen, and the fantasy that developing nations can one day be like america--a fantasy, of course, we have encouraged other nations to believe in--can never be realized without the earth being swiftly destroyed.