Can We All Consume Like Americans?
We all know that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. No secret there. We can’t keep growing the way we have been over the last decades or centuries without any consequences whatsoever. Now, by some measures, we are already using about 1.5 planets to support our current lifestyle. And by current lifestyle, I mean the lifestyle of you and me, anyone with Web access and now living in cities like New York, having a pretty decent life. But I also mean the lifestyle of billions and billions of people who have next to nothing, who, if anything, consume too little at this point.
Now, you put these two together and you have with a real problem. We consume a lot, you and me. Even though you are trying to do the right things as an environmentalist, you still consume more than the poorest of the poor.
So, what do we do now? Do we stop growth? Do we stop developing? Do we stop buying? Do we stop consuming? Well, maybe. Part of the solution might be to try to tread more lightly on the planet. But even if you, personally, try to do all of these things -- you don’t drive, you don’t eat meat, you don’t eat out of season grapes, you carry your groceries home in an organically-sourced cotton canvas bag -- you still wouldn’t make a difference.
You personally, can’t make a difference here. And more importantly, it is not about stopping growth, it is not about no growth. It is about smart growth. It’s about dematerialization. It’s about, consuming, enjoying life, and for many people -- the poorest of the poor -- probably consuming more than they really do.
But for the rest of us, it is about consuming more smartly. It’s about innovation, it’s about coming up with new ways of enjoying life, as it were, in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness here, but doing it with less material in a smarter way, by using new technologies, by using things that maybe haven’t even been invented yet.
It’s about using technologies that maybe haven’t even been invented yet. Ten years ago, think back, could you have dreamed of the iPad? Probably not. But it’s about these new technologies and making sure that we, as a society, move toward a low impact growth scenario, as it were, that allows us to grow as a society, grow as an economy, and do so with less impact on the planet.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.