the consumer class

In the United States (Original in Mindfully.org):

Reducing consumption without reducing use is a costly delusion. If undeveloped countries consumed at the same rate as the US, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required. People who think that they have a right to such a life are quite mistaken.
  • Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy.
  • On average, one American consumes as much energy as
    • 2 Japanese
    • 6 Mexicans
    • 13 Chinese
    • 31 Indians
    • 128 Bangladeshis
    • 307 Tanzanians
    • 370 Ethiopians
  • The population is projected to increase by nearly 130 million people – the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California – by the year 2050.
  • Forty percent of births are unintended.
  • Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day – that’s roughly 200 billion more than needed – enough to feed 80 million people.
  • Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.
  • The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.
  • The average individual daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world’s population lives on 25 gallons.
  • Fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie have been destroyed in the last 200 years.
  • Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock.
  • Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production.
  • Every day an estimated nine square miles of rural land are lost to development.
  • There are more shopping malls than high schools.

Percent of World Total

United States
Developed Countries
Undeveloped Countries

Other Facts:

  • 250 million people have died of hunger-related causes in the past quarter-century — roughly 10 million each year.
  • 700 to 800 million people, perhaps even as many as a billion, don’t get enough food to support normal daily activities
  • Africa now produces 27% less food per capita than in 1964.
  • 1.7 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and by the year 2000, the number of urban dwellers without access to safe water and sanitation services is expected to grow by 80%.
  • 0.1% of pesticides applied to crops reaches the pest, the rest poisons the ecosystem.
  • Each year 25 million people are poisoned by pesticides in less developed countries, and over 20,000 die.
  • One-third of the world’s fish catch and more than one-third of the world’s total grain output is fed to livestock.
  • It takes an average of 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat in modern Western farming systems. It takes 5,214 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.
  • Each person in the industrialized world uses as much commercial energy as 10 people in the developing world.

source: Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb / PBS [the PBS website is defunct but the book by the same name is available]

Also see:

By one calculation, there are now more than 1.7 billion members of “the consumer class”—nearly half of them in the developing world. A lifestyle and culture that became common in Europe, North America, Japan, and a few other pockets of the world in the twentieth century is going global in the twenty-first.

At least part of the rise in global consumption is the result of population growth. The U.N. projects that world population will increase 41 percent by 2050, to 8.9 billion people, with nearly all of this growth in developing countries.

This surge in human numbers threatens to offset any savings in resource use from improved efficiency, as well as any gains in reducing per-capita consumption. Even if the average American eats 20 percent less meat in 2050 than in 2000, total U.S. meat consumption will be 5 million tons greater in 2050 due to population growth.

A growing share of the global consumer class now lives in developing countries. China and India alone claim more than 20 percent of the global total—with a combined consumer class of 362 million, more than in all of Western Europe. (Though the average Chinese or Indian member consumes substantially less than the average European.)

Developing countries also have the greatest potential to expand the ranks of consumers. China and India’s large consumer set constitutes only 16 percent of the region’s population, whereas in Europe the figure is 89 percent. Indeed, in most developing countries the consumer class accounts for less than half of the population—suggesting considerable room to grow.

As many as 2.8 billion people on the planet struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, and more than one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water.

The U.N. reports that 825 million people are still undernourished; the average person in the industrial world took in 10 percent more calories daily in 1961 than the average person in the developing world consumes today.

The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas.

As of 2003, the U.S. had more private cars than licensed drivers, and gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles were among the best-selling vehicles.

New houses in the U.S. were 38 % bigger in 2002 than in 1975, despite having fewer people per household on average.

Calculations show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.

An estimated 65 % of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, leading to an annual loss of 300,000 lives and at least $117 billion in health care costs in 1999.

In 2002, 61 % of U.S. credit card users carried a monthly balance, averaging $12,000 at 16 % interest. This amounts to about $1,900 a year in finance charges—more than the average per capita income in at least 35 countries (in purchasing power parity).

Governments could rein in high consumption by removing economic subsidies for everything from gas-guzzling vehicles to suburban homebuilding—which total around $1 trillion globally each year.

About arnulfo

veterano del ciberespacio
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