Politically Inconvenient Ecological Truth

Helmut Burkhardt 141213

In a globally just society, where all humans consume natural resources at the more or less same level, say 40 % of what the rich use today, the earth can support only 3 billion people using today’s carbon based technology (red bars in Fig 1), and 6 billion if we go 100% to renewable energy(green bars in Fig 1).

My attached diagram is based on data supplied by the Global Footprint Network (www.globalfootprintnetwork.org ). The horizontal axis gives the per capita natural resources consumption as a fraction of the per capita natural resources consumption of today’s rich societies. The vertical axis gives the sustainable world population in billions  as it depends on the average per capita natural resources consumption.

sustainable Population vs affluence jpeg 141213 b  Fig. 1

In order to be fair, the poor should be allowed to increase consumption to the common level for all, which I assumed to be 40% of the consumption of today’s rich. The rich have to reduce consumption 60% of their present day consumption in order to come down to the common level. Unfortunately, that may not be sufficient as the global footprint data that I used may be too optimistic. I talked to one of their researchers, and she admitted that the loss of biodiversity is not yet included in their footprint calculations. I doubt such reduction is possible without violence. Remember the violent reaction of the Greek population when the European Union asked them to tighten their belt by only 5%.

UN projections are that human population will peak at 11 billion. In order to prevent irreversible collapse of the ecosystems that supply vital resources population and per capita resource consumption need to be reduced substantially and the now ubiquitous carbon based technology must be phased out This is the politically inconvenient truth. The challenge for all individuals and for all collective actors around the globe is to achieve the necessary changes in a just and humane way and not through World War III.

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2 thoughts on “Politically Inconvenient Ecological Truth

  1. “Necessary changes” are only possible within the framework of the global federation. We have to repeat this nonstop, so it sinks in minds of all people. TS

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  2. Happy 2014 to Helmut and to all othrer globalists!
    I have checked UN FAO site about food supplies and consumption. Their site is not so pesimistic, like others who say that we are going to deplete all oceans of fish in the next generation etc. Their site says it’s still possible to save the world if USA gives more money for UN projects and salaries. TS

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