Sometimes it can be difficult to relay to people just how much we consume; particularly those of us in developed countries. While purchasing green this and eco-friendly that are all well and good; one of the root causes of our environmental problems is hyperconsumption. We simply buy too much of what we do not need and often even what we do not really want.
Here are some fast facts on consumption relating to various goods, services and resources we use.
- Half the world lives on less than two dollars a day - source: GlobalWatch.
*12 percent of the world's population lives in North America and Western Europe and accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, but a third of humanity that lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent. WorldWatch Institute
*In 1950, the global population was 2.6 billion people. We had 53 million cars- which works out to be one car for every 50 persons. Today, there are over 6 billion people and 500 million cars-more than one car for every dozen inhabitants. Sierra Club
*If the Chinese consume resources in 2031 at a level that Americans do now, grain consumption per person there would climb from around 600 pounds today to around 2000 pounds needed to sustain a typical western diet. This would equate to 1,352 million tons of grain, equal to two thirds of all the grain harvested in the world in 2004. OneWorld
*In 1950, Americans consumed 144 pounds of meat and poultry per person on average. In 2007, that shot up to 222 pounds. Factory Farming Campaign.
*Global oil production is currently about 81 million barrels a day and is predicted to fall to 39 million barrels a day by 2030 due to diminishing resources (see Peak oil). Source: Energy Watch Group via Guardian
*In 2003, gasoline consumption per capita in North America was 1,593.1 litres per person, whereas in developing countries it was 59.2 litres per person. World Resources Institute.
*Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in November of 1958 were at 313.34 parts per million. In March 2009, levels were at 387.41 parts per million, an increase of over 20%. Carbonify.com
*Industrialized nations, representing only 20% of the world's population, consume 87 percent of the world's printing and writing papers. Global production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector is expected to increase by 77% from 1995 to 2020. The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD countries and is the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries. Co-op America
*The average American buys 53 times as many products as someone in China and one American's consumption of resources is equal valent to that of 35 Indians. Over a lifetime, the typical American will create 13 times as much environmental damage as the average Brazilian. Sierra Club via CNN
*South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent in the world, yet it's water consumption is 445 litres per day per person (2001/2002) according to Environment SA. Australia's average per person water consumption was 493 litres per day. In the USA, average water consumption per person in 2008 was 575 litres daily. China's daily per capita consumption in 2006 was 86 litres according to Data 360
*The world's annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. WasteOnline
*The USA's electricity consumption per capita is 12,343.098 kWh per year and 71.4 % of that electricity is generated via fossil fuel. Australia's consumption is 10,252.432 kWh per capita, with 90.8 % fossil fuel dependent. German consumption is 6,366.428 kWh per capita with only 61.8 % of that fossil fuel generation dependent. NationMaster
*Between 2000 and 2005 around 10 million acres of forests were lost per year in South America, which incorporates the might Amazon forest. The land is cleared primarily for cattle ranches and soybean plantations. Only 20 - 25% of Brazilian soybeans are used domestically; most is exported overseas for use in food, textiles and increasingly - cattle feed. Choices Magazine and Monga Bay
*The food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from farm to our dinner plate (also known as food miles). The distance had increased by up to 25 percent between 1980 and 2001. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University
*To grow a pound of wheat requires around 130 gallons of virtual water. For meat, depending on the type - multiply that by five to ten times. Water Footprint
*Global coal consumption in 1980 was 4,129.498 million short tons. In 2006, it was 6,743.786 million short tons. Coal consumption is projected to grow at about 2.5% per year over the next 20 years. US Department of Energy
It's frightening stuff isn't it. Readings statistics like these has certainly helped me stop and think "do I really need this" when shopping and using utilities. It's not just a guilt trip; this also helps save money to go towards things that really matter!
Remember that hyperconsumption can also extend to buying "green ". Our thinking is that if something is labelled environmentally friendly, then we can use more of it, but we really need to bear in mind that however earth friendly a product may be, it still requires energy to produce, resources to create and transport to get it to us. Even in the world of green shopping it's still a case of everything in moderation.
Click Here to access direct resources for these statistics.
About Michael Bloch
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