Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

14 Nov 2022

8 billion and counting

Posted by Michael Keating

Tomorrow the world passes another milestone. The United Nations is calling it The Day of 8 billion saying that is when it estimates the world’s population will reach that mark. That’s eight thousand million people to feed, house, clothe and care for. This at a time when the environment is already over-stretched and starting to fall apart. It’s not just the number of people. It’s how much each consumes and discards as waste and pollution. A 2022 study by the London School of Economics and Political Science lays it out. It said high income regions, such as North America and Europe, are responsible for 74 per cent of cumulative excess resource use and resulting ecological damage to the planet. It was based on the use of materials such as metals, minerals, fossil fuels and biomass between 1970 and 2017. It said China is responsible for 15 per cent of global excess material use while the low-income countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Asia are responsible for only eight per cent. There is a similar pattern for pollution, particularly greenhouse gases emissions. We are already well into overshoot for the ability of the planet to keep supplying natural resources and absorbing our pollution. Increasing the population increases the pressure but the increasing consumption as people become richer is the true driver of damage. According to the 2022 study “High income nations need to achieve a dramatic reduction in resource use to return to sustainable levels…” It went on to say: “It is unlikely that these reductions can be achieved while pursuing economic growth at the same time. The transition to sustainable levels of resource use will probably require transforming our economies. This includes abandoning GDP growth as a goal, reducing inequality and organizing the economy around human needs, while scaling down the production of unnecessary commodities.”

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