Growth in human consumption resulting from a combination of population growth and growth in consumption per capita is depleting the natural life support system of the planet, disrupting natural water cycles and climate systems, and threatening human survival.
From the perspective of our Earth Mother the burden of accommodating human needs and excesses has for millennia been little more than the normal nuisance one expects from young children. That changed dramatically during the last half of the twentieth century when we experienced explosive growth in both the human population and in our per capita consumption. Somewhere around 1980 we passed a threshold. Our human consumption became more than a nuisance, it began to exceed what our Mother could bear.
We see the results in climate chaos, depletion of fresh water and fertile soils, the collapse of fisheries, the erosion of denuded forest lands and melting ice caps. We are building up toxics in the water, soil, and air. We are killing our mother and thereby ourselves. As a species, we must grow up fast and accept our adult responsibilities. The implications are pretty straight forward.
I recall a familiar scene from the original TV science fiction series Star Trek. "Scotty to Captain Kirk. Life support is failing." "Kirk to Scotty. Shut down all nonessential systems and redirect available resources to life support."
It is the order for our time. No resources for war or extravagance. Focus all attention on the health of the crew and the life support system. No more throwaway stuff. No more economic growth for the rich.
Our priority must be to grow our well-being rather than our consumption. Invest in peace, education, and health care rather than war. Invest in compact communities rather than suburban sprawl. Invest in local economies and environmental rejuvenation rather than in shipping toys around the world and speculating in the global financial casino. Invest in sidewalks, bicycles, bicycle paths, and public transportation rather than cars and highways. Invest in education for living rather than advertising designed to get us to consume more.
It turns out we must eliminate exactly those forms of non-essential production and consumption that our economic and political systems are designed to promote to keep our economies growing. Annie Leonard’s video animation “The Story of Stuff?” is a brilliant exposition of the nature and consequences of an economic system designed to make money for rich capitalists without regard for human or natural consequences.