Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 08:20:44 AM EST
As pointed out by bruno-ken in the Salon, Jared Diamond, who is much quoted by the end-of-worlders around here, apparently doesn't think we're quite done yet:
Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts. Ask yourself whether Americans’ wasteful use of gasoline contributes positively to any of those measures.
Other aspects of our consumption are wasteful, too. Most of the world’s fisheries are still operated non-sustainably, and many have already collapsed or fallen to low yields — even though we know how to manage them in such a way as to preserve the environment and the fish supply. If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.
The same is true of forests: we already know how to log them sustainably, and if we did so worldwide, we could extract enough timber to meet the world’s wood and paper needs. Yet most forests are managed non-sustainably, with decreasing yields.(New York Times)
I've been saying this for ages now: most of our consumption is waste even within the terms of the consumer society. A lot of it is waste even within the status competition that passes for pursuit of happiness in these advertising saturated days.
I suspect we can drop our resource consumption by at least 75% - maybe more in the US - with little hardship over a couple of decades.