This weekend I’ve been browsing the WWF’s annual Living Planet Report for 2010. They’ve been producing the reports since 1998, and it’s been one of the influences behind Make Wealth History in the past, showing the inequity of our resource use and the over-shooting of the planet’s capacity. Here are some highlights:
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Jeremy it would seem to me that even many environmentalists still don’t look at the big picture as far as footprints. BTW have you read the Lifeboat Ethics article?
Yes though I still think Hardin has some general relevance even now. Even if China is per capita lower in its resource use many of its citizens would like to live our lifestyle so to me population concerns do come into it. What it does raise for me it matters concerning what ‘right’ do people and nations have regarding number of children and population? After all there are religious groups that use demographics as a weapon to gain more political power.
I do think if we are going to raise footprint concerns, raise the living standards of developing countries while lowering that of developed people are naturally going to ask why should more heavily populated nations get to have more resources just becuase they allowed their populations to get away from them. Not to forget the complicating factor of historical resource use.
So even if we were able to get it to a sustainable level there will be an objection that some nations get more than they deserve due to large populations.
Jeremy I agree that Hardin’s position is hardly ethical but what interests me is the Lifeboat ethics concept and in particular how we distribute resources on a finite planet that is for all intensive purposes just like a lifeboat. My intuition being that wealth/ownership, birth, education etc that we use at the moment would be unacceptable justifications for any individual or group to have more than anyone else on the life boat. Some would then argue that there would be no incentives for the industrious and the whole system would collapse; now I don’t think it would come to that but that issue-and others- still needs to be addressed.
I’m also interested in the assumptions for stabilizing population in a economic growth dominated world that is already gone beyond it natural carrying capacity.
All well and good for countries that have already developed but we don’t have 3-4 planets to do that with everyone else. Can we just rely on educating women and better health services in developing countries to slow things down?
I also concerned with ‘cheaters’ even in a stable global population in that I would imagine there would be some cultural/religious groups that would be quite happy to continue to grow their populations while others shrink for both political and theological reasons. What then?
The point being for population and resource use can we rely on people to do the right thing or will it have to be forced on them? Just look at the US with the latest elections and no hope in hell for anything being done on climate change for at least another two years.
I hope you are right Jeremy but I do know for a fact that there are groups like the Mormons in the US that are having a huge rise in population. I do think this reproductive right will be questioned some time in the future.
I also wonder though on a national level if people will expect when push comes to shove in the context of climate change and resource depletion, that nations only use as much resources as they have within their own countries. For example if we in fact got people to reach a sustainable footprint level but country X required more resources than it could provide wouldn’t other countries/peoples think that unfair if that country could be thought to have an excessive population and getting more resources that they are entitled to?
Contraction and Convergence [C&C]
Description of and support for C&C here: –
WWF appear to back the more extreme “Greenhouse Development Rights” [GDR] over C&C: –
Click to access wwf_ecofys_carbon_budget_final.pdf
GCI’s assessment of GDR and other ‘alternatives to C&C’ is here [in Chapter 9]: –
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