Would Millennium Consumption Goals Help Rich Nations Reduce Their Eco-Impact?


photo: David Blackwell/Creative Commons

I'll assume you know what the Millennium Development Goals are and assume the same about how the 'developed' world consumes natural resources is grossly in excess of what is ecologically sustainable and equitably extendable to the planet's six, soon seven, billion people. The connection between them being, as the Worldwatch Institute suggests, ought we also have some Millennium Consumption Goals? Seems like a good idea to me.Here are the ones Worldwatch suggests we start with:

  1. Halve obesity and overweight rates by 2020 (we're starting the MCGs later than the MDGs). This will reduce mortality, morbidity, and economic costs, as well as reduce ecological pressures driven by overconsumption of food.

  2. Halve the work week from the current 40+ hours per week to 20 hours per week. This will better distribute jobs, wealth, promote healthier living, and reduce economic activity, which is essential in our ecologically taxed world. For a good paper on this topic, read New Economic Foundation's excellent report 21 Hours. [TH note: And my take on that same report.]

  3. Better distribute wealth by raising taxes on the wealthiest members of society.That one will get me in trouble with the American Tea Party but let's dust off the idea of Noblesse Oblige: To those given much, much is expected in return. The days of extreme wealth spent on luxurious living must draw to a close. The Earth can't handle it any longer.

  4. Double the rate of use of non-motorized transport (bikes, walking, etc.). Increasing these forms of transport will improve health, reduce fossil fuel and material use, and make for safer cities.

  5. Guarantee access to health care for all. Yes, another minefield in the USA, but standard procedure in most industrial countries so that'll be an easy goal for most countries to achieve.

The goal for Worldwatch is to add three more to that list. Some already suggested in the comments there are creating new measures for assessing the economy (replacing or supplementing GDP with the Genuine Progress Indicator or similar), internalizing externalized environmental and social costs into consumer prices, halving the amount of meat consumed, halving the number of coal-fired power plants, and more.

All good suggestions, if not all articulated in the MCG/MDGs format of an actual target. Here are two of mine:

Double the amount of food produced organically. This will reduce fossil fuel, chemical fertilizer and pesticide usage, as well as reduce runoff which is polluting waterways and causing massive ocean dead zones.

Halve household electricity usage. Through a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and better design, reduce household electricity usage by half. If your electricity comes from fossil fuels this would reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and indirectly increase energy independence. If your electricity is generated from renewable energy, it reduces the amount of energy that needs to be generated and the amount of land needed for wind farms, solar power plants, hydropower, biofuels, etc--and the amount of time and money needed to replace all fossil fuels with renewables.

So what do TreeHugger readers think? What would you add to the Worldwatch list?

More on Resource Consumption:
Cult of Consumerism at Root of Planet's Environmental Degradation & Destruction
Connecting the Dots: Population Growth, Consumerism & Biodiversity Loss Tangled Together

Tags: Consumerism | Developing Nations | Poverty

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