Every year, millions of people are added to the global upper class, mostly in Asia, and all with the consumptive habits of Americans.
Americans are five percent of the global population, yet they consume twenty-five percent of the world’s resources. Beyond Americans, the global upper class as a whole — the wealthiest twenty percent of all people on this earth — consumes seventy-five percent of the world’s accumulated resources annually.
Life on Earth is unsustainable. The issue goes beyond minerals and petroleum, though the issue with them is perhaps the easiest to relay, as their deposits are harvested at rates well beyond the millions of years it takes for them to form. Unsustainability defines all aspects of modern life.
I recently saw a statistic that raising one chicken for slaughter requires four hundred and fifty gallons of water. The statistic was presented as part of a pro-vegetarianism advertisement against the waste of food, and it was directed at Californians. California is currently experiencing its worst drought in recorded history, and Californians have become very water-conscious people as a result.
California grows half of the United States’ food, as well as the global supply of select crops. California has depleted its water supply to the point that its ground table has receded and its mountains have risen, so the ever-thirsty California now draws its water from the supply and tables of its neighboring states.
After completion of the All-American Canal, communities along the Colorado River in Mexico turned to ghost towns from the sudden change in water supply. Now, when the mighty Colorado River arrives in Mexico, it is a muddy stream at best.
The citizens of California themselves consume only fifteen percent of their state’s water supply, with Californian farmers using another sixty percent. The remaining fifteen percent of California’s water is lost to evaporation, as it would cost farmers more money to cover their irrigation systems than it would to purchase more water at the subsidized rates they receive from local and federal government.
We’re strangling ourselves, but the short-term profits are too great to pass up.