Saturday, November 3, 2007

Harmful Consumption

If my projections are accurate, people’s lives began improving rapidly in the mid-1800s: The annual rate of increase in ideality (happiness and longevity) suddenly more than doubled and then gradually decreased, reaching zero 100 years later.

The transition occurred when the growth rate of ideality caught up to the growth rate of consumption. Population growth continued to increase after that, pulling resources away from improvements in the quality and longevity of people’s lives. In the 1970s, as the rate of ideality growth dipped slightly below zero, the rate of population growth reached a maximum that came close to the rate of consumption.

Since 1980, increased consumption has had a net negative effect on humanity. The decreasing population growth rate has not translated into an increase in ideality, which confirms that more and more resources are being converted into not just waste, but harmful waste.

Harmful consumption likely falls into three categories: Destruction of natural capital (which has occurred since 1990), direct poisoning of people, and war making. If we could stop poisoning people and repair the damage to natural infrastructure we have caused, we might at least stand a chance at long term survival. Even if we found some way to live without Nature’s services (“eating rocks” as I’ve indicated elsewhere), we would still need to clean up our environment. Stress from other people interfering with survival-related tasks can lead to the diversion of resources toward weapons manufacture and their use to reduce the number of people.

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