World Population Growth Drives The Climate Ethos


According to a recent World Resources Institute-sponsored "EarthTrends" report: "World population is currently growing by 1.1 percent annually. As shown in the chart above, nearly all of this population growth is occurring within developing countries. As a result, roughly 9 in 10 children (1.6 billion total children) under the age of 15 currently reside in developing parts of the world, up from 7 in 10 in 1950." We'll leave discussion of the raw data , demographic methods, and underlying factors for others. Climate is our focus.In the "developing world" depicted in the graph, a household is likely to 'hold' an extended family. Per capita resource consumption is lower than in developed nations as a result. (Helps also that, at least for now, relatively few in the developing world have air conditioned homes, cook on restaurant-grade kitchen appliances, and drive to work.) However, because the developing world rules in both absolute population and numbers added each year, global resource consumption and C02 emissions are predetermined to increase each year; and, even a slight increase in resource consumption, on the average, has an extraordinary impact: China for example.

Because, as each year passes, there are proportionately fewer citizens in the developed nations, buying green goods and efficient "things" ought to be enough to ask of those citizens, right? Consider the following.

Based on a recent sustainable lifestyle study by Jo Williams of the University College London: "People who live alone have a bad effect on the environment, research reveals. They consume more resources per head than any other group, take up more land, consume more energy and get the least use out of appliances. The worst offenders are men aged between 35 and 45. Around a third of all households are occupied by one person and this figure is expected to rise, leading to fears of a consumption crisis. One suggested solution is more co-housing schemes, where singletons would have a private bedroom, bathroom and kitchen but share some living and storage areas".

So, the advice on cutting resource consumption of the young urban single is to forge a life style that more closely approximates a common characteristic of living in developing nations: communal housing. That's overlooking a half century of Western social trends, zoning codes, and the Hippie symbolism problem; but otherwise, "why not?" Living densely in the developed world won't tip the consumption balance far enough is one reason (see below for explanation). The other reason is that, arguably, the "singles" impact reasoning is fallacious. By delaying fertility or perhaps not reproducing at all, cumulative resource consumption is reduced by the urban single phenomena.

So: "who gives first" and "who gives the most" to curb climate change? Do citizens of developed nations first need to curb their fertility and resource consumption before developed nations should act? Or, is it the other way around? The answer is no and no. Every body's got to give on this one. It's a matter of leadership. It's the Climate Ethos.


treehugger slideshows