Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review of Too Many Rich People Article by Paul Ehrlich

Too Many Rich People by Paul Ehrlich

The article describes that populations from developed countries, according to the IPAT equation, have a higher impact on the environment. Well, this is not surprising at all. Developed countries, Americans especially, have lived the highest quality of life than other organism to inhabit the earth. We're living longer, consuming more, and contributing to the extinction of countless species (which are needed to obtain the natural balance of the food chain) and destruction of the environment with mostly everything we do. Unlike the "we should only help ourselves" notion in my AP Environmental Science class lecture, the Professor mentioned in this article presents a more optimistic view in working with the developing (poor) countries to address our consumption issues as a whole.

Our main concern should not be keeping developing nations at their level of poverty, death rates, and disease in order to keep their resource-use and pollution levels steady, but truthfully and strategically it should be to help them. We are in some ways afraid that assisting them will limit our availability of cheap resources because if helping them means giving them an economic boost with industrialization, technological resources, and such - it will all end up with them depending on an increasing energy use as more and more of their country develops a better quality of life. In turn, this will mean we have to share our limited supply which will most likely mean we'll have to pay more for something they'll have less of in their once agricultural to now industrial economy. So we may think by solving social injustice we are increasing our already bad resource depletion problem. As many say "it's human nature" for us privileged ones to address the question "help the poor or just ourselves" by picking ourselves. Well this is a most hopeless view and not a reliable solution in a sense that, by this, we are about doing what seems like it requires less effort instead of solving our immediate problems by simply working together. Putting my point of view aside and going back to analyzing, developed countries fear that with developing nations increasing economic growth and standard of living they'll soon catch up to us! They'll purchase consumer goods like us, consume like us, and exhaust resources like us! But we don't have enough to supply all of us with the way we're taking and taking and wasting... SO of course, typical higher class stereo-type would be for us to look away. And the sad thing is we have. We've looked away from the environment and now we're doing the same to our own. This wont solve anything, history repeats itself, and if we aren't careful enough or aware of our intakes, in years we have the potential to end up like the inhabitants of Easter Island. Evidently, what we are in urgent need for (besides clean, efficient and renewable energy-which may take years of investment and research) is changing our way of living. It really does all come down to changing our energy consumption habits.

Let me explain. . .

Some hold the point of view that assisting these countries with high levels of poverty will eventually in time lead to a dependence. If this is you, then in this situation, you are not thinking rationally about how urgent our population problem is and to find an immediate solution. Once our sources are gone, they are gone. I do not find that reliance from developing countries can be a problem in the future because we'll be helping them climb the stairs not necessarily carrying them. If they are assisted with technological resources and educating them how to use them, and so on to gain a better quality of life this will result in an economic boost, more agricultural production, and more educated individuals contributing to a global economy (as there would be growing institutions along with jobs.)

Before you read the rest, know that no I do not agree with this industrial revolution solution described above. Yes, I am for environmentally conscious agricultural practices and less technological advances. The above paragraphs and below ones have a purpose of drawing up conclusions to my solution and opening your mind to know where my view is coming from. I did write my one favorable solution down towards the bottom but I'd like for you to continue reading. And then of course, please share your insight.

The fault in the above solution is that we cannot just hope that helping them increase their quality of living will in fact keep them and other civilized countries from doubling in population, contributing to over-exploitation and making the same darn mistakes our very own expedient country does. (Yes, I did imply that we are selfish beings.) We must think logically and by that I mean not only for humans but for the environment too. We need a solution that agrees we can live together in harmony a.k.a. sustainably.

Although I loved Professor John P. Holdren's innocent, loving, and lets work together point of view, it lacked many realistic factors. I wish society was filled with people that cared about environmental worries or thought about going green over money, desires, or worldly things but not everyone is aware, or goes above and beyond or has the financial ability to offer that from their every day living. Well his solution to our population and consumption problem is that if better off countries (developed) for example Unites States citizens, if they were cooperative, respected the environment, and cared for fellow human beings then they'd have the potential to take intiative and reduce our consumption to such a percentange that we can help countries with poverty reach our level of quality of life and still live sustainably. This would be lovely if every being changed their values, decided to help one another, and changed their way of living to better support our Earth but let's look at the main thing his solution lacked: adjusting to ones self-interests/individuality. In other words, unless you're already described as a human being that would naturally do the above (in his solution) then you would have to change everything about yourself to make his solution work/complete.

Again, here's my point of view: I don't think providing a solution that requires a person to change theirself is rational because in the end we all know it is hard. There is the will power, devotion, and other attributes that you may lack that will keep you from changing your energy consumption habits. I do think it is a great solution for sustainutopia and I would love if everyone did so but a great engineer keeps in mind that he needs to adjust to the people, not the people to him. It's an elusive goal so I'm going to describe the faults of his Professor Holdren's conclusion then I'll provide you with my own.

His conclusion is
- cooperation
- care for our fellow human beings
- respect for the environment

1. These all require a change of heart for the average person. Our class addressed the big population question "Help the poor or just ourselves?" and although it seems like helping the poor is the right thing to do or it might be the caring thing to do because if you were in need you'd want help/that sorta thing, but by just assuming everyone would step up and be more self-less is just naive and unrealistic.
2. Gaining respect for the environment is usually done through time. Your experience for caring for another human can be practiced in your family, same thing goes for animals - by having a pet. It is hard to get someone to contribute by expecting they've reached that level in their life to care beyond animals and people but also for the outdoor world. This is usually worked into.
Have you lived on a farm? Owned a plant or garden? Went pumpkin picking? You may have more tolerance for the environment than those who live in urban areas and haven't grown up seeing many trees outside like you do everyday.
3. The need to care for our environment is a touchy topic especially with today's political parties. Some argue that current science statistics are false. "We have enough room on the planet." "We have an abundance of natural resources that can continue to supply increasing populations." - statements like these create a bump in the road for sustainability and makes an even bigger block of tumbling Americans that are uneducated on environmental topics and aren't sure who to side with. Skeptics shut down any green movement, environmental legislation, and investment in alternative fuels - and with any chance of theirs they'll quickly add their bias view about anything relating to the climate change topics saying "that's false!"

So what do we do? Here's my insight on solutions. I want to hear what you think so I can oppose viewpoints and perhaps expand my solution by branching off of yours.

Considering that developing countries are seeking to get their people out of poverty, in the end everything comes to using lots of energy. Unfortunately today the most frugal form of energy is coal and it's also the dirtiest!! My solution includes if better off countries worked together with needy nations to provide incentives for green energy we can defeat our avaricious behaviors and address consumption. We obviously have the potential to find technological solutions to this problem too. Although you and I can be for these commitments, in reality, it's up to Congress to pass these policies. Both liberal and conservative political parties must come to an environmental bipartisan to determine an immediate plan of action. Our most simple solution to energy consumption is having an efficient, clean, and renewable source. This means that it will have a low environment impact, there will be an everlasting supply, and it's just a good as the dirty sources. If we have this solution we wont have worry about energy consumption as much and emission levels will plummet. Investing in these energy sources seems like the more logical answer because once we found our source - opposing individuals of climate change will be living green unknowingly! In other words, these bigots wont have to huff and puff about change.

So who's ready to make it happen? Who is willing to move forward into a possible environmental engineering and renewable energy sources college education and career? You are our future.


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    'ʎɐʍ ǝɥʇ ʎq

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  2. I found you! :)

    I think it is sad that America alone could feed the entire world without depleting our resources. But you're right, people are Selfish and changes aren't going to just happen "Magically."

    I'm curious as to what this " efficient, clean, and renewable source" is? Does it exist, or is it something we'd have to create?

    Very interesting thoughts. I will definitely keep reading :)

  3. Hi Rebekah, I'm enrolling in GMU next year as well and I'm glad that I found you; I really enjoyed your Eco GMU Song. I'm majoring in Environmental Sustainability Studies and share your affinity for Earth.

    Now onto the article... While I agree that humans do exhibit selfishness, I'm sure that this trait is not "human nature"; there have been many egalitarian societies throughout history that prove this. Of course, in an imperialist nation like ours, the affliction of selfish individualism is certainly more widespread. Nevertheless, a progressive change in society can quickly alter our backward mentalities. A change in the way that human beings interact with each other and nature is necessary for sustainability.

    Furthermore, the high standard of living in the developed world requires that the third world be in the horrible poverty that it is kept in. Countries whose people suffer tremendously often have land rich with resources. These resources, though, are not controlled by the people. Instead, the natural wealth is commodified and controlled by multi-national corporations that assure they can access the resources cheaply. This control is guaranteed through political, economic and military oppression. Those of us in imperialist nations have all the material things that we do because we steal labor and natural resources from the third-world. The reason why conservatives will never agree to enforcing sustainable practices is because their power is derived largely from the funds of the fossil fuel industry.

    Lastly, the energy that we use today in the developed world is not needed to lift people from poverty. The incredible amounts of energy we use is only necessary to sustain a materialist and consumerist society like ours; I'd even argue that we in the U.S exhibit a cultural poverty much worse than some of the poorest nations. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba had limited access to fuel. Initially, food supply was limited because the society was built upon using fossil fuels in their agricultural practices as well in transporting the food. Necessary rearrangements - particularly local farming, more farmers, less car use, and natural agricultural practices - drastically reduced the amount of energy needed to support the people. Cuba is a great example of sustainable living while retaining a high standard of living.

    I'm sorry if this was a bit much, but I do feel strongly about these issues. I enjoy your blog and can't wait to be at GMU with you next year.

  4. Hey Louie!!! Thanks so much for the response!!! It is, as you said, a handful but I really enjoy opposing viewpoints and you have brought great arguments to the table! I look forward to meeting you too, it's so exciting that we found each other! We must converse in more conversations on sustainability, in the near future. Do you mind looking for me on facebook? Here's a link: . I'll be waiting to hear from you! :-)