More consumption, fewer beneficiaries

Unhealthy human consumption at odds with the environs and socio-equity

Published: Friday 30 April 2004

-- World's household consumption expenditure was US $20 trillion in 2000, up from US $4.8 trillion in 1960. Some of the increase was because of population growth, but much of it was driven by rising incomes

The consumption frenzy led to unsustainable use of natural resources. Between 1960 and 1995, worldwide use of minerals rose by 2.5 fold, metals by 2.1 fold and wood products by 2.3 fold

1.9 hectares of productive land is available for each person. But every human uses 2.3 hectares

Subsiding destruction
Will policies ever favour the environs?
Sectors Subsidies
(US $billion)
(US $billion)
Agriculture 260 250
Fossil fuels, Nuclear energy 100 200
Road transportation 400 380
Water 50 180
Fisheries 25 Not applicable
Forestry 14 78
Total 849 1,088
*Although externalities are not subsidies in a formal sense, they do represent uncompensated costs that have to be borne by society at large
To save the environment and ensure socio-equity, rich nations need to cut down consumption by 90 per cent

Governments can facilitate the transition. But they are not inclined to do so. Environmentally harmful subsidies amount to US $849 billion annually worldwide

Most spending is on goods unnecessary for comfort and survival, but which make life enjoyable. In India, fast food industry is growing by 40 per cent each year, but one-quarter of Indians are under-nourished

Consumption is highest in nations like the US. An American uses 22 kilogrammes of aluminum per year, while an Indian uses two kilogrammes and an African less than one kilogramme

Trade pacts have helped the rich. Cars in Australia cost US $2,900 less than their price in 1950. This has increased their consumption

Source: 'State of the world 2004', The Worldwatch Institute, USA, 2004

Money should change hands
Expenditure on luxurious goods and services can help poor

Annual expenditure on products

Social or economic goals

Funds required to annually achieve goals

Makeup US $18 billion Women reproductive healthcare US $12 billion
Pet food in US and Europe US $17 billion Eliminating hunger and malnutrition US $19 billion
Perfumes US $15 billion Universal literacy US $5 billion
Ocean cruises US $14 billion Clean drinking water for all US $10 billion
Ice cream in Europe US $11 billion Immunising every child US $1.3 billion

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