Friday, March 25, 2005

To Consume Is Glorious

I must remember to make the Asia Times a daily stop on my web browsings - and so should you if you are interested in news and analysis about Asia or a different perspective on global events than what you'll get in the US or UK papers.

Today's edition features an article focusing on the global ecological consequences of China's increasing wealth.
...if those increased incomes translate into the kind of lifestyle currently enjoyed by most US citizens, Chinese demands will overwhelm what the planet can provide, according to the analysis, "Learning from China: Why the Western Economic Model Will Not Work for the World". While geopoliticians worry whether China will integrate itself into the current Western-dominated international system, Lester Brown, EPI's founder, is far more worried about the impact of a wealthy China on the Earth's diminishing resource base.

"If it does not work for China," he notes, "it will not work for India, which has an economy growing at 7% per year and a population projected to surpass China's by 2030."
Brown lays out the potential consequences of a China whose consumers emulate the lifestyle currently enjoyed by most Americans - and concludes that the earth simply does not have the raw materials to sustain such consumption. Just one example:
If by 2031 the Chinese use oil at the same rate as the US does today, it would need 99 million barrels of oil a day, or 20 million barrels per day more than the entire world currently produces.
Brown's purpose is not to chide Chinese for wanting to grow rich and consume like Americans, but rather to suggest that all of us, Americans most certainly included, must adjust our patterns of consumption and adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
"The point of this exercise of projections," writes Brown, "is not to blame China for consuming so much, but rather to learn what happens when a large segment of humanity moves quickly up the global economic ladder ... Plan A, business as usual, is no longer a viable option. We need to turn quickly to Plan B before the geopolitics of oil, grain and raw-material scarcity lead to economic instability, political conflict, and disruption of the social order on which economic progress depends."
We do have a choice. As bleak as I sometimes believe the future for our planet might be, as disgusted and despairing of my country's direction as I am at present, a part of me still maintains what I guess is that quintessential American trait of optimism - excitement, even. Just think. We could devote ourselves to developing alternative technologies and energy sources - a Manhattan Project to rid ourselves of fossil fuel dependency. We could dedicate ourselves to preserving our wild places and restoring our wounded lands. Such a project could revitalize our economy and rejuvenate our soul.

Okay, it probably won't happen. Until of course the day that it must.

5 comments:

Ellie Finlay said...

Hi, Lisa. I tried to leave a comment twice yesterday and Blogger wouldn't let me. I'm trying again here and will say more later if it works.

Ellie Finlay said...

OK! It works. What I tried to say yesterday is that I agree that we needs a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy. Sadly, I'm not optimistic about that happening. I truly think we are headed for extinction as a species. What I do hope for is that when we have succeeded in destroying most of humanity, the ones who are left will wake up and be willing to try to do things a different way. So I continue to "light one candle rather than curse the darkness".

Thanks for the LA Times address you left me. I'll check into that soon.

I've blogged today about Molly Ivins' column on the horrible effects of mercury contamination on my "Child of Illusion" blog that might interest you.

Other Lisa said...

Hi Ellie, blogger has been a bit picky lately - apparently they are doing some work tomorrow at 3 pm PST and blogger will be offline for a bit - hopefully this will improve things...

I'm not particularly an optimist either. But I do know we are capable of doing the right thing. So it's a possibility. If the US continues down its current path for much longer, however, I don't have a great deal of hope.

I've linked to your blog on my "links" page and will do a post shortly explaining what some of the links are...

JR said...

Lisa,

I visit Asia Times web site pretty often also and I notice NPR has used AT as their sourse to discuss Asia topics.
I used to "listen" to CNN a lot, but now I like NPR the most. Is NPR still

Other Lisa said...

Hi JR,

Not sure when you left this comment - blogger has its problems sometimes - anyway, I also prefer NPR to CNN. Actually, I don't have cable, but even if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd get way more news from NPR than CNN...

What was the rest of your comment that blogger ate?!