Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Consumption Rates

In today's New York Times, Jared Diamond, professor at UCLA and author of Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel (very good book I would argue), wrote an interesting article on world consumption rates.

As expected, the U.S. consumes more per-person than any other country. We consume 32 times as much. That is, one U.S. citizen consumes 32 times as many resources (think oil, paper, water) as a person in a developing country (e.g. Kenya).

Ask yourself, what do developing countries want to do? Or better, what do we (i.e. U.S. citizens) or world leadership want developing countries to do? They want to increases their living standards. We want them to increase their living standards and thus consume more.

Diamond says that if we kept the current world population at 6.5 billion and increased everyone's consumption rate to ours (i.e. 32), we'd have what amounts to a population of 72 billion. I'm not sure how he did his calculation, but if true, we would have trouble supporting 72 billion people. As of right now, most pundits feel we can handle a world population of around 9 billion.

So what does Diamond say we do? Be more efficient. Using more oil does not lead to a better standard of living. Whether you're a greeny or a right-wing conservative, it's advantageous to be more efficient in life. Striving towards more efficiency can't be argued.

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