Posts Tagged ‘developing countries’

A few months ago, No Impact Man drew a graph showing his interpretation of the connection between quality of life and consumption.

Global Give and Take for a Happier Planet



Yesterday’s pictures of the Cuban people eagerly snapping up electronics in the stores, made me think of how the No Impact Man‘s graph can be applied not just on a personal, but also a country level. Cubans want in on the consumerist orgy, and we cannot deny them that right, even in the face of the looming global warming threat. Just as we can’t prevent the Chinese or the Indians. Similarly, some of the poorest developing countries in Africa are lacking even the most basic necessities, and yearning for material goods to improve their lives. All are on the left side of the curve. Our job as good neighbors should be to help them get what they want and need, so that they can catch up to us and reach the apex.

Maybe we should listen to James Speth, author of “The Bridge at the End of the World” as he suggests that “We need a new story”? What he means by that, is we, the Western folks, are on the right side of the curve, where more things not only do not make us happier, but instead lead us to become more and more dissatisfied with our lives. At some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves, how can I lead my life differently so that I am more ful-filled, not ‘fake-filled’? New happiness research shows that we are happiest when we give, not when we take. Place this in the context of the people on the left side of the curve, and you can connect the dots.

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The Daily Footprint Project has taken me to the micro level of my personal footprint, down to the most minute details. I am only one out of six billion people, however. How do I fit within the larger picture? I wanted to know. I found this world map of environmental footprint on the Footprint Network:

Learning From Environmental Footprint Statistics

The map tells me I am in the largest red zone, along with 300 millions other Americans. Together, we have succeeded at becoming the largest offenders against the environment, both in terms of our per capita and combined environmental footprint (from Living Planet Report):



I am left wondering where does the nine point six come from? What is it about the way we live in this country that makes us such outrageous consumers of the world’s resources? Here is what came to my mind, in random order:

  1. round the clock services

  2. big cars

  3. big houses

  4. master bedrooms

  5. hot tubs

  6. pools

  7. large food servings

  8. big appliances

  9. big everything

  10. driving everywhere

  11. love of electronics

  12. waste, throw away culture

  13. malls as meccas

  14. online shopping

  15. suburbia

  16. credit cards

  17. advertising

  18. red meat

  19. processed foods

  20. cheap gas

  21. cheap water

  22. cheap electricity

If only things were not so big, and cheap, and convenient, we would not be so tempted to consume as much. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t whenever I go back to France. And the statistics are here to prove it.

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