Reduced standard of living

Guest Columnist

We in the United States consume roughly 24 percent of the world’s natural resources while we represent less than 8 percent of the world’s population. We can do this because we are the richest society. Until recently our economy could afford to purchase these resources on the world market.

Before the 21st century a majority of the earth’s people lived in Third World countries lacking the industrial base to even make use of resources, much less be able to afford things such as automobiles, air conditioning, running water, super markets, etc. Prior to this decade American’s consumption of more than a quarter of the earth’s resources had little impact on unindustrialized nations since their economies were stagnant and demand for additional resources remained fairly low.

Everything has changed. We now live in a global society. Many countries and regions are rapidly emerging into industrial economies. I read a UN study that calculated that when a country creates an industrial economy, its consumption of resources increases six-fold.

Crude oil prices reflect the new global supply and demand economy, where we pay between $65 to $90 to refuel our large automobiles. Likewise the cost of building supplies and even basic foods are quickly being enveloped by the world economy. Poorer countries are already paying the price of the world’s inability to grow enough food. Food prices have nowhere to go but up. As more and more people become members of industrialized economies they will have more money to spend, which will inevitably drive up prices.

America has paid a price for its high lifestyle. I have read that if you combine the national debt, private debt and decades-long trade deficit debt, the figure exceeds $60 trillion. The United States has most likely stretched its credit to the point where our nation may be forced to devalue its currency and restructure both governmental and private debt. It is doubtful we will continue to be able to afford our luxurious lifestyle in a global market where more and more millions of people are gaining affluence and will be able to compete for the limited resources that are the direct result of the growing global population.

What will life be like when Americans have to live within their means? I try to imagine existing on less than a third of what I presently consume. Most residents on Longboat are at the top of the economic food chain and are old enough to avoid the inevitable changes brought on by the emerging global economy. Still if we do not begin to tighten our belts we may discover that the party is already over and that like Argentina and Greece we are faced with immediate and harsh economic realities.

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3 Responses for “Reduced standard of living”

  1. Harquebus says:

    How it was in 1911 is how it’s gonna be.

  2. John Weber says:

    In addition, most of us have no idea how pervasive fossil fuels and other non-fuel minerals are in our lives. Fossil fuel energy and fossil fuel itself are embedded in our lives. Below contains a list of products and medicines from fossil fuels.

    So fossil fuels are going to peak. So within decades the depletion will be so much that there will be little available. “Renewable energies” require fossil fuels and materials extracted and processed with fossil fuels to be available. So there will be gas lines to begin with. Then we will ride our bikes.

    I hold up a cup of hot coffee. “What is the energy in this cup of hot coffee?” I ask. The obvious answer, you heated the water. Embedded energy. Embedded energy. In the making of the cup. In the purification of the water and supplying it to me. In the gift of the hydrologic cycle making “fresh” water (if there aren’t too many pollutants in the air – a la acid rain). In the growing and processing of the coffee. In the transporting the coffee from there to here to me. The coffee maker. In the knowledge of all these things. And on and on and on.

  3. John Weber says:

    I would like to share the first two paragraphs of my essay:
    We will go kicking and screaming down the path to the new Middle Ages as fossil fuels desert us. With the decline of available energy, those of most of us who have sat at the top of the energy pyramid will become the new peasants. With the popular view of the Middle Ages as a brutal and dirty time filled with famine and disease and at the mercy of armed overlords. We cringe at the thought.

    With great sadness, we must recognize the direct connection between present day population levels and the use of fossil fuels in food production, medical procedures, medicines and hygiene. With the fall in fossil fuel availability there will be a reduction in population. Population soared with the industrial revolution and the development of industrial, fossil fuel based agriculture. It cannot be sustained.
    From: The New Middle Ages

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