Although developed countries only make up about a third of the world, they consume much more of the world’s natural resources. That includes water. A child from the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times more water as one from the developing world, according to a report by the Royal Society, UK’s 350-year-old national academy of science.
An estimated 884 million people in 2008 didn’t have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion didn’t have access to basic sanitation. By 2025, it is estimated that more than one million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.
When it comes to meat, people in developed countries consume much more than people in developing countries. The report points out that when countries become more affluent, they eat more meat. The median per capita daily meat supply in low-income countries remained steady from 1961 to 2007, but increased in high-income countries from five to eight times more than low-income countries. However, in China and Brazil, meat consumption increased greatly over the last 40 years.
Developed countries produce more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The report points out the per capita carbon emissions are up to 50 times higher in developed countries than developing countries. The sad truth is that the more developed a country is, the more its population consumes, and that consumption results in higher GHG emissions. This is not sustainable. As the report states, “in the richest parts of the world per capita material consumption is far above the level that can be sustained for everyone in a population of 7 billion or more.”
That brings me to another point that the report makes: “Higher income usually leads to higher consumption.” In a world of finite resources, where the population of two-thirds of the world (developing countries) is expected to continue to show much more growth than in developed countries, that is scary. The high consumption in developed countries coupled with the sheer size of the population of two-thirds of the world will continue to put a stress on the earth’s natural resources and ecosystems.
The report includes a list of recommendations, which include the following:
- The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty
- The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilize and then reduce material consumption levels
In other words, developed countries must lead the way when it comes to living more with less.
Photo: Flickr user, Jim Linwood