21 Oct 2004
According to this Earth Day Network quiz, if everyone lived like me we would need 4.2 Earths. Apparently I'm even below average for America. I've heard similar assertions from my friends, usually wealthy, well-educated Americans, that we are living beyond the resources available to us on Earth.
It's a shocking statistic, but so what? Wouldn't you expect the wealthiest, most prosperous fraction of the Earth's population to consume more than their fair share of the resources? As long as the whole population of Earth isn't living like I am, it's not a problem, is it?
Of course, there is still plenty to object to in a world where the wealthy have so much and the poor have no peace, no food, no clean water, and no medical care. As living standards improve for the world's poor, we'll have to take care not to place too heavy a burden on our Earth. I'd be really worried if I didn't think the incentives to keep growth in check weren't there—but they are. For example, it's going to be extremely rewarding to develop more energy-efficient vehicles
if when gasoline becomes 50 times more expensive.
But really, I'm more curious about a different issue. Why do so many people believe that by not eating meat, and buying organic citrus fruits at Whole Foods for twice the price of conventional fruits at Stop-n-Shop, that they are making a meaningful difference to the planet? Isn't the extra $0.30 per orange just going to fund some executive's yacht, or a longer commute for your cashier? Isn't a lot of the environmentalist rhetoric just a way of buying the false hope that you can make a difference in a world we're eager to make sense of, but truly can't understand?