Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Recycling after ourselves...

Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel has an opinion piece in the Times today that elicits interesting albeit depressing scenarios on the nature of consumption. Link here.

Briefly, the argument runs as follows:

- Today, there are more than 6.5 billion people, and that number may grow to around 9 billion within this half-century.
- The average rates at which people consume resources (oil and metals), and produce wastes (plastics and greenhouse gases), are about 32 times higher in US, Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.
- People who consume little want to enjoy the high-consumption lifestyle. Tens of millions of people in the developing world emigrate to the aforementioned countries seeking out the higher lifestyle (our family included).
- Among the developing countries seeking to better standards at home, China stands out. It has the world’s fastest growing economy, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese, 4 times the US population.
- Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below the US. If no other country increases its consumption and all national populations (including China’s) remain unchanged, just China’s catching up would roughly double world consumption rates.
- If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up, world rates would increase eleven fold. It would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present consumption rates).

The developed countries lecture to the developing nations that a free market system will cure all that ails them… Yes, this is correct to a certain degree, but, promises of the free market economy coupled with unchecked consumption is just not sustainable (as can be inferred from the above argument). Of course, what is sustainable is to reduce waste, increase reuse and recycling across the board. Easier said than done… Jared does not make a strong case for it, but it is implied that only a concerted effort by national politicians across the globe will drive this new thinking down to the masses whereby it becomes more of ‘a way of living and thinking’ rather than grand one liners issued by politicians over the year.

Another resolution that I plan on undertaking – recycle as much as possible. The neighborhood where we live does not have strict guidelines enforcing the stipulated recycling of certain articles resulting in transgressions to the same as the homeowner deigns - resulting in irregular compliance. This partly explains our spotty record in this department. Hopefully, our resolve to help this year forces us to recycle more fully in the wake of this opinion piece.

Sunil, 'Learn Chinese - Have Opportunity', Digital photograph

1 comment:

Sujith said...

That's the fortune cookie. That's cool showing chinese domination.