"If the levels of consumption that several hundred million of the most affluent people enjoy today were replicated across even half of the roughly 9 billion people projected to be on the planet in 2050, the impact on our water supply, air quality, forests, climate, biological diversity, and human health would be severe" (WWI 2004).
Consumption—or rather over consumption, consuming beyond our basic needs and wants—is inexorably the impetus of many other environmental problems. The constant demand for new goods, whether it is cars, TVs, computers, MP3 players, clothes, accessories, cell phones, PDAs, fast food and overly processed and packaged food, traveling, bigger homes, etc. creates a continuous demand for raw resources and consequently the exploitation of our environment to obtain and transform these resources. Additionally, many of the goods we demand are becoming more and more disposable which is increasing the amount of goods entering the waste stream—landfills are inundated with the remnants of our throwaway lifestyles. Furthermore, the extraction of resources, the manufacturing of the products, the transportation of the products to distributors, and the disposal of the goods at their end-of-life all require energy, which, for most consumer societies, is primarily coming from fossil fuels.
As societies around the world become more affluent, the demand for goods will only increase and will continue to threaten the sustainability of our planet unless a fundamental shift in our systems of production and consumption occurs.
This podcast with Dr. Luz Claudio of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York was produced by Ashley Ahearn*. It appeared first in Environmental Health...
Carbon footprintLast Updated on 2013-04-05 at 17:12
A carbon footprint is the measure of the amount of greenhouse gases, measured in units of carbon dioxide, produced by human activities. A carbon... More »
Point source pollutionLast Updated on 2013-04-05 at 16:34
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines point source pollution as “any single identifiable source of pollution from which... More »
Economic recovery in the Great DepressionLast Updated on 2013-02-24 at 21:44
The Great Depression has two meanings. One is the economic contraction of 1929-33, during which unemployment rose from three to 25 percent, as the nation's output fell over... More »
Land use profile of ChinaLast Updated on 2012-09-11 at 18:17
The story of land use in China over the last century is as dramatic as the tale of the country's radical economic transformation. Endless acres of rural lands, that just a few... More »
Agriculture IILast Updated on 2012-07-26 at 11:56
Humans began to cultivate food crops about 10,000 years ago. Prior to that time, hunter-gatherers secured their food as they traveled in the nearby environment. When they... More »
Food packaging and public healthLast Updated on 2012-06-03 at 15:05
It is known that chemical components from packaging can migrate into foods, but questions of how much migration occurs and what the potential health effects may be are gaining... More »