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Overconsumption Said To Threaten Quality Of Life Worldwide PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 15 January 2004 05:52

UN Wire, Washington: Spiraling consumer appetite for goods and services is unsustainable and is eroding the quality of life for people worldwide, according to the annual State of the World 2004 report released yesterday by the environmental group Worldwatch Institute. Last year, the "consumer class" counted 1.7 billion people- more than a quarter of the world's population.

http://www.unwire.org/News/328_426_11899.asp

Overconsumption Said To Threaten Quality Of Life Worldwide

Friday, January 9, 2004

By Caroline Preston

U.N. Wire

WASHINGTON- Spiraling consumer appetite for goods and services is unsustainable and is eroding the quality of life for people worldwide, according to the annual State of the World 2004 report released yesterday by the environmental group Worldwatch Institute. Last year, the "consumer class" counted 1.7 billion people- more than a quarter of the world's population. In the United States, the rate of consumption is ramped up every year, the group said, with house sizes an average of 38 percent larger than in 1975 and refrigerators 10 percent larger. For the first time, more Americans owned cars last year than there were licensed drivers to operate them. But what Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin called the "consumer juggernaut" is quickly expanding beyond richer nations such as the United States, Japan and Canada. Nearly half of consumers, or people with income over $7,000 of purchasing power parity, now live in the developing world. According to the report, China counts 240 million consumers-a number which will soon surpass that in the United States-and India counts 120 million. Even as some countries consume too little-including nations in sub-Saharan Africa where average household expenditure has declined by 20 percent over the past two decades - the worldwide consumption contagion has put pressure o­n natural resources and contributed to diminishing quality of life. In the United States, for instance, 65 percent of adults are overweight and 61 percent of people carry a credit card balance that averages to $1,900 a year in interest. Sprawl - a consequence of demand for larger houses - has meant that Americans now spend over an hour a day in the car, adding up to six work weeks per year spent commuting. And although average income per person has more than doubled since 1957, the group said, Americans reported themselves no happier. "It is time to rethink the way we consume as individuals and as a society," said Gardner. Governments and industry have a large toolbox at their disposal for curbing overconsumption, according to Worldwatch. Implementing "eco-taxes" that force manufacturers to pay for the harm they do to the environment or adopting "take-back laws" to promote more durable products are among the group's recommendations. Government, business and institutional purchasing decisions can also play an important role in promoting more sustainable patterns of consumption, according to State of the World contributor Lisa Mastny. The 1993 Energy Star computer program under former U.S. President Bill Clinton, for example, mandated that government buy o­nly energy-efficient computer equipment. Largely as a result of the increased demand from government, she said, 95 percent of monitors, 80 percent of computers and 99 percent of printers today meet the efficiency requirements. The group is optimistic that responses can be scaled up to the international level as individuals become more aware of the consequences of "unbridled consumption." "In the long run," Flavin says in the report, "it will become apparent that achieving generally accepted goals- meeting basic human needs, improving human health and supporting a natural world that can sustain us- will require that we control consumption rather than allow consumption to control us."

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2004 05:52
 

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