Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Check this out!

From the New York Times today: What's Your Consumption Factor? An article by Jared Diamond (really good!) about rising consumption levels and the unsustainability of current (and growing) appetites. Two things that struck me: 1) Europeans have a lower consumption level but higher quality of living and 2) the world cannot sustain many more people consuming at the rate of the highest/richest billion.

I was also struck by the fact that, just after writing all these blog posts on food policy and subsidies and overproduction, I go into work and get two emails over the course of the day regarding overconsumption (with a link to the above article and the following series of photos). Thoughts?

And from a coworker (source forthcoming):

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.0

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23


Steve Ruberg said...

So yeah this was not supposed be under Food Part 3.

No question US consumption is out of control. And corporations have enough influence over the political system that they appear to rule the land - not "we the people".

But certainly global trade is responsible for some amount of wealth distribution. According to Diamond, the average westerner consumes 32X the other 4.4 billion people in the world. How much does the purchase of a computer for example "reinvest" in other parts of the world?

There must be a way to begin to work towards a balance; towards a more just global system. Maybe buying fair trade goods is a start. Perhaps fair trade certification could be extended to other products.

LynnaeEtta said...

"Steve" :) ~

You said, "certainly global trade is responsible for some amount of wealth distribution". If that's the case, then why does the average westerner consume 32X the other 4.4 billion? I'm not positive about the numbers but I know, historically, the wealthy have rarely consumed so much more than the poor. Living standards are rising around the world - especially in SE Asia and China - but this will only make it more difficult for westerners to sustain their current level of consumption. Diamond mentions this as well.

So the crux of the issue (in my opinion :) ) is that the average westerner, and the rest of the wealthy world, consumes too much to sustain, especially considering rising consumption levels elsewhere. Working towards a balance involves not only making informed decisions about what kind of products we consume (fair trade vs. free trade) but also how much we consume. Westerners can buy all the fair trade they want, but unless we cut back on consumption, we still won't be addressing the problem.