Panic - Infinite Growth, Finite Planet
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“Infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is unsustainable. We are living beyond our means”. Paul Gilding, TED Talk
The earth has entered a new age – the Anthropocene – where humans are now the most dominant species and have the most powerful influence on our environment and our climate. (Economics For A Fragile Planet, Edward Barbier)
Since the mid 20th century, the world has experienced unprecedented population growth (from 2.7 billion in 1955 to nearly 8 billion in 2022). This has created unprecedented demand and the deterioration of the natural resources needed to fuel and support this growth. This rapid acceleration of progress (plus resource deterioration) is known as The Great Acceleration.
Here are some facts on depletion of the world’s natural resources and our current overconsumption.
Humanity currently uses the equivalent of 1.7 planets to provide the resources necessary to provide goods and absorb waste. Global Footprint Network 2018
We have created over 170,000 synthetic mineral-like substances, such as plastic, concrete, steel, ceramics and artificial drugs, against around just 5,000 natural minerals. There are now 1.4 billion motor vehicles, 2 billion personal computers and more mobile phones than people on earth. Mark Maslin, How To Save Our Planet
We extract over 80 million tons of seafood from our oceans every year and have reduced 30% of fish stocks to critical levels. We cut down 15 billion trees a year. The top driver of deforestation is beef production. 70% of the mass of birds on the planet are domesticated - mainly chickens (we eat 50 billion each year). 96% of the mass of all animals on earth is of those we raise to eat. David Attenborough, A Life On Our Planet
This rapid growth has also put extreme pressure on our social foundations.
In 2017, the world’s richest 1% of adults owned 50.1% of global wealth. Credit Suisse, 2017
The richest 20% of the population consumes close to 75.6% of all global resources, with the poorest 20% consuming a mere 1.5%. Jupiter, 2016
Inequality emerged as a central issue for the Sustainable Development Goals (see 2.1) because of the growing body of evidence that inequalities in income and wealth cause economic instability, a range of health and social problems, and create a roadblock to the adoption of pro-environment strategies and behaviour. Social and economic inequalities tear the social fabric, undermine social cohesion, contribute to environmental problems and prevent nations, communities and individuals from flourishing. WEF, Five Reasons Why We Need To Reduce Global Inequality, 2015
Taken from The Sustainable Business Book
In 2017, the world’s richest 42 adults possessed the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. Credit Suisse, 2017