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Preliminary Table of Contents
Annual Editions: Environment 13/14
1. The Psychological Roots of Resource Over-Consumption, Nate Hagens, Postcarbon.org, (from the book Fleeing Vesuvius,) posted May 11, 2011, http://www.postcarbon.org/article/331819-the-psychological-roots-of-resource-over-consumption
Author Nate Hagens believes humans have an innate need for status and novelty in their lives. But the way we pursue these needs, Hagens argues is not sustainable. The essay explores some of the underlying drivers of resource depletion and planetary consumption.
2. Why Do We over Consume?, Darek Gondor, Our World 2.0, posted December 14, 2009, http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/why-do-we-over-consume/
In this brief essay blog, Darek Gordon asks, "why do we over-consume?" He suggests our predisposition to needing more stuff goes back to our pre-modern roots. However, the abundance of the resources necessary to meet those needs continues to diminish while competition increases. The solution, the author argues, will lie in our cultural evolution.
3. The Gospel of Consumption, Jeffrey Kaplan, Orion Magazine, May/June 2008
According to author, Jeffrey Kaplin, "If we want to save the Earth, we must also save ourselves from our selves." While our obsession with work (actually, over-work) contributed to productivity and material wealth in the past, we need time to maintain and nurture the human relationships necessary for sustaining a healthy planet.
4. Do We Consume Too Much?, Mark Sagoff, The Atlantic Online, June 1977, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97jun/consume.htm
Author Mark Sagoff asked in 1997, "Do we consume too much?" Discourse about the future of our planet (in 1997) was dominated by people who believed an expanding world economy will use up our natural resources and others who saw no reasons to limit economic growth. The author concluded "neither side has it right."
5. How Much Should a Person Consume?, Ramachandra Guha, GLOBAL DIALOGUE, vol 4, no 1, Winter 2002; http://www.worlddialogue.org/content.php?id=180 (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 38)
Guha argues, "There are . . . more than 300 professional environmental historians in the United States . . . and not one has seriously studied the global consequences of the consumer society . . . American Way of Life." The essay examines the answer to the title's question and concludes there are vast inequalities of global consumption.
6. Consumption, Not Population Is Our Main Environmental Threat, Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360; http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/15/consumption-versus-population-environmental-impact, (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 36)
The author argues that by almost any measure, a small proportion of the world's population consumes the majority of the world's resources and is responsible for most of its pollution. The essay encourages the reader to consider the possibility that material consumption behavior, not population, may be our greatest environmental threat.
7. The Issue: Natural Resources, What Are They?, World Resource Forum, 2012, http://www.worldresourcesforum.org/issue
In this brief survey, the World Resource Forum reviews the current state of our natural resources. It first defines what natural resources are, and then provides both text and graphic descriptions of global patterns of resource use, resource extraction, resource efficiency, and scenarios of future resource extraction.
8. Consumption and Consumerism, Anup Shah, http://www.globalissues.org/issue/235/consumption-and-consumerism, (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 37)
The consumption gap was wider in 1995 than in 2005. But in 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world still accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption; the poorest 20% just 1.5%. The United Nations argues that in 2005, consumption was a leading cause of environmental degradation. Today, the consumption-poverty-inequality environmental nexus is accelerating. In 2012, . . . ?
9. People and the Planet: Executive Summary, The Royal Society Science Policy Center, April 2012
The Royal Society Policy Center's 2012 report contends that global human population is experiencing rapid and widespread changes, and is coupled with "unprecedented levels of consumption." The Society argues this condition presents profound challenges to human and planetary well being and offers recommendations to avoid the most harmful impacts.
10. The Human Factor, Elizabeth Kolbert, OnEarth Magazine, November 24, 2010
Elizabeth Kolbert interviewed renowned scientist E.O. Wilson for insights on our current situation as humans on earth. According to Wilson, we can fix problems like energy, economy, war, and the political instability of nations. Our real problem—loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats—will be the challenge.
11. Global Aging and the Crisis of the 2020s, Neil Howe and Richard Jackson, Current History, January 2011
By the 2020's, global aging will have a profound effect on the shape of the world order. While authors Howe and Richardson do not directly address how this demographic change will impact consumption patterns and resource needs, readers are encouraged to postulate what may be some future sustainability and environmental consequences.
12. The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World, Jack A. Goldstone, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2010 (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 4)
The author believes four population mega trends will have significant political and economic consequences across the globe. However, the impacts will vary between places and peoples, and will most likely result in variable environmental consequences. Policy makers must reconsider the old three-world economies paradigm look at a new one based on changing demographics.
13. The Competitive Exclusion Principle, Garret Hardin, Science Magazine, April 29, 1960 (from AE: Sustainability 12/13, Article 17).
The "exclusion principle" states complete competitors cannot coexist according to renowned biologist Garrett Harden. While his article was published in 1960, the principle remains more poignant today than ever in its argument that humans are so detrimental to earth's ecosystems and life support services because we behave in a manner that not only competitively excludes other species, but ourselves as well, from benefitting from earth's life-supporting service.
14. Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph Stiglitz, Vanity Fair, May 2011
Noble Prize economist, Joseph Stiglitz, states the top 1% of American's control 40% of American wealth. Stiglitz describes this inequality of income, how it distorts markets, and its implications for the American middle class. The reader is asked to speculate what this income inequality may mean with regards to environmental sustainability priorities.
15. The New Economy of Nature, Gretchen Daily and Katherine Ellison, Orion Magazine, Spring 2002
A three-year-old child died because an ecosystem service failed– fresh water filtration. Authors Daily & Ellison argue the labor of nature (e.g. providing fresh water) is often thought of as free, and its services unregulated. A system of appraising and monitoring the value of natural assets is needed to insure against their damage or loss.
16. Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials, Hertwich, E. et.al.,
A Report of the Working Group on the Environmental Impacts of Products and Materials to the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management. UNEP 2010. This report investigates the causes of environmental pressures and degradation via the "production– consumption– materials nexus" and contends that economic agendas pursued to satisfy consumption require extraction and transformation of materials, energy and land. Agriculture, food production, use of fossil fuels and higher wealth are identified as some of the most important drivers of environmental pressures.
17. Full Cost Accounting in Environmental Decision-Making, David Carter, Larry Perruso, and Donna Lee, EDIS Document FE 310, Department of Food and Resource Economics, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL., 2006
Full-cost accounting refers to the process of collecting and presenting information (e.g. opportunity costs, externalities, non-market values) to decision makers on the trade-offs inherent in proposed development alternatives. The process is especially important for government agencies that represent a variety of interests when deciding how to allocate public funds and/or natural resources.
18. Changing Global Lifestyle and Consumptions Patterns: The Case of Energy and Food, Fritz Reusswig, Hermann Lotze-Campen, and Katrin Gerlinger, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, (date ?), http://www.populationenvironmentresearch.org/papers/Lotze-Campen_Reusswig_Paper.pdf
This article points out that consumption as a social process and consumerism as a social reality contributes substantially to the global environmental problems of today and pose serious constraints to achieving planetary sustainability. The authors argue that addressing the "life style issue" (e.g. the clustered worlds of energy use and food consumption.) must be the next step in the discourse of sustainability.
19. The Cheeseburger Footprint, Jamais Cascio, Open the Future, 2007, http://openthefuture.com/cheeseburger_CF.html
What is the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger? Substantial. Author Janais Cascio compiles some "carbon facts" regarding one of America's most beloved consumption pastimes—cheeseburgers in paradise.
20. The New Geopolitics of Food, Lester R. Brown, Foreign Policy, April 25, 2011
The era of abundant food supplies may soon become replaced by world food scarcity according to environmental leader Lester Brown. A new food economy is fast approaching –climbing food prices combined with an inequitable global impact. Such an economy can lead to global political instability and increasing environmental pressures.
21. Global and Regional Food Consumption Patterns and Trends, from Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases: Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation (Chapter 3) , Geneva, 28 January—1 February 2002
Agriculture and food figure predominantly in maintaining the health and well-being of the human species. This article describes currant global and regional food consumption patterns and trends, as well as discussing future trends in global demand, food availability, and consumption. The reader is asked to reflect upon what implications these patterns may have for the environment.
22. Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler, Mark Bittman, The New York Times, January 27, 2008
What is cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and part of daily life? No, not oil. It's meat. The author says Americans consume close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per person per year. The problem is that meat demands so many resources and has so many environmental impacts.
23. Chart: This Is What You Eat in Year, Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, September 2011
As a graphic follow-up to author Mark Bittman's previous Article 26, Derek Thomson provides an easy-to-read chart displaying what we eat.
24. The World's Water Challenge, Erik R. Peterson and Rachel A. Posner, Current History, January 2010 (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 15)
Some experts estimate that over the next twenty years, we may see as much as a forty percent gap between global water demand and available resources. Growing demand, consumption and climate change will contribute to increasing competition. Despite this situation, the authors see little effort aimed at establishing a value for this resource which could aid in managing its sustainability.
25. Wet Dreams: Water Consumption in America, Cynthia Barnett (from "Blue Revolution"), Utne Reader, March/April 2012
The American illusion of water abundance follows a long and peculiar tradition. We have flaunted water as a symbol of power, wealth, and control of nature. Why? Author Cynthia Barnett says because it's cheap and always seems to be there—for now. But there are signs we need to stop ignoring our water.
26. Water Footprints of Nations: Water Use by People as a Function of Their Consumption Patterns, A.Y. Hoestra and A. K. Chapagain, Water Resources Management, Vol. 21, 2007
The "water footprint" is a tool used to show the extent of water use in relation to consumption by people. The "water footprint" of a county is described as the volume of water needed for the production of the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the country. The study examines the four major factors determining the water footprint of a county: consumption volume, consumption pattern, climate, and agricultural practice.
27. The Big Melt, Brook Larmer, National Geographic, April 2010 (from AE: Environment 12/13, Article 14)
Earth's water is often described in environmental science in terms of the "interacting compartments" where it resides. One compartment is glaciers (accessed via melt water) which regions like Asia depend on for agriculture and domestic use. Brook Larmer examines the glacial shrinkage in these areas and the potential for future conflict in the region.
28. Eating Fossil Fuels, Dale Allen Pfeifer, From the Wilderness Publications, 2004
The article argues that nearly 40% of all land-based photosynthetic capability has been appropriated by human beings for other purposes than growing food. To make up for this, in the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalent are expended annually to feed Americans. Given the potentiality of peak oil production, the author believes we have three choices.
29. The Myth of Mountaintop Removal Mining, Beth Wellington, The Guardian, August 19, 2011
In the last decade, U.S coal has been touted as a viable way to reduce our energy dependence on foreign supplies. But extracting it is environmentally disruptive. Big Coal says we can either have jobs and energy independence, or we can have a pristine environment. The author says, "How about we choose both?"
30. The Efficiency Dilemma, David Own, The New Yorker, December 20, 2010
Jevons' Paradox: Increasing energy efficiency = increasing productivity of energy = reducing implicit price = more return for money = increased demand. Author David Owen discusses the growing "energy efficiency dilemma." Our efforts to improve energy efficiency may negate any environmental gains. Can squeezing more consumption from less fuel carry an environmental cost?
31. Jevons' Paradox and Perils of Efficient Energy Use, Greg Lindsay, FastCompany, March 16, 2010, http://www.fastcompany.com/1583947/jevons-paradox-and-perils-efficient-energy-use
Grey Lindsay offers some more (brief) insights into the Jevons' Paradox of energy efficiency with some different emphasis. Note the corollary to Jevons' Paradox, The Piggy Principle, presented in the article.
32. Rich Countries Launch Great Land Grab to Safeguard Food Supply, Julian Borger, The Guardian, November 21, 2008
Wealthy countries are buying up agricultural land in developing countries to secure their long-term food supplies. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization is concerned that such land-buying activities could create a form of "neo-colonialism," with poor nations producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.
33. Global Urbanization: Can Ecologists Identify a Sustainable Way Forward?, Robert I. McDonald, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008
Harvard Graduate School or Design professor Robert McDonald discusses the connection between urban farms and ecosystem service generation and consumption. He also discusses how urban farming controls energy use and argues that urban growth must be addressed if we hope to achieve a sustainable biosphere.
34. Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land, Ralph E. Heimlich and William D. Anderson, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Economic Report No. 803, 2001
The report examines urban development at the edges of cities and in rural areas, often referred to as "sprawl," and presents a summary of findings regarding the forces driving development and its impacts on agricultural and rural communities. The report also provides information on the means available to channel and control growth.
35. The End of a Myth, Julia Whitty, OnEarth Magazine, February 12, 2012
The ocean is the largest wilderness on earth. It is a biome composed of myriad ecosystems and staggering numbers of species. An ounce of sea water alone is home to as many as 30 billion microorganisms. But author Julia Whitty explains, what we once thought to be infinite and inexhaustible is not.
36. Land-Use Choices: Balancing Human Needs and Ecosystem Function, Ruth DeFries, Jonathan Foley, and Gregory Asner, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, vol. 2, no. 5, 2004
Our consumption needs and desires (food, fiber, timber, space for settlements) require land-use change. However, there are often unintended alternations to ecosystem functions with land use changes and so land use decisions require tradeoffs between satisfying human needs and unintended ecosystem consequences. Quantitative knowledge about ecosystem responses to such changes can minimize potential damage.
37. Economic Report into Biodiversity Crisis Reveals Price of Consuming the Planet, Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, May 21, 2010
This brief report reveals that species loss around the world could cost us the Earth with food shortages, floods, and expensive clean-up costs. The U.N. biodiversity report states that in every corner of the globe the evidence of biodiversity change is impossible to ignore. Global action is necessary to prevent further destruction of nature.
38. Putting People in the Map: Anthropogenic Biomes of the World, Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, vol. 6, no. 8, 2008
Most of the terrestrial biosphere has been altered by humans and impacted global patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The authors map "anthropogenic biomes" derived from empirical analysis of global population, land use and land cover. Such mapping can help us better understand the human/environment relationship.
39. Thesis on Sustainability, Eric Zencey, Orion Magazine, May/June 2010
Eric Zencey presents his "thesis" on sustainability. He opens and builds his 18 point discourse upon what he believes is a term called sustainability that has become so widely used that it may becoming meaningless. The term has been applied to all manners of activities in order to give these activities the gloss of moral imperative, the cachet of environmental enlightenment.
40. Collaborative Consumption: Shifting the Consumer Mindset, Rachael Botsman and Roo Rodgers, Mother Earth News, November 19, 2010
In this excerpt from the book, What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rodgers, examples of real entrepreneurial and revolutionaries around the world are used to show how social technologies and economic/environmental imperatives are moving us to a new realm of consumerism marked by sustainability and shared access.
41. Toward a New Consciousness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities, Anthony Leiserowitz and Lisa Fernandez, Environment Magazine, September/October 2008
The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies convened an esteemed group of leaders from diverse disciplines to focus on discourse regarding the role of cultural values and worldviews in environmentally destructive behaviors within affluent societies –patterns that are being adopted throughout the world, including the developing world.
42. No Middle Way on the Environment, Paul Ehrlich et al., The Atlantic, December 1997
The article discusses six misconceptions regarding the debate over sustainability. The authors –environmental scientists –caution that the debate between "cornucopian" ideas of sustainability and informed prophets of the dangers posed by overconsumption cannot be resolved by hoping to find some middle ground. The authors believe the cornucopian's are simply wrong.
43. Consuming Passions, Jeremy Seabrook, The Guardian, June 10, 2008
In this article, the author argues that the greatest threat to global stability comes not from the poor, but from the rich. But it is not the excessive materialism associated with wealth that threatens the earth. Rather, it is a distorted kind of mysticism which believes we can consume the earth and still avoid the consequences of our ravenous appetites.
44. What Can Be Done to Reduce Consumption, Paul Brown and Linda Cameron, Ecological Economics, vol. 32, 2000
Overconsumption of natural resources is frequently portrayed as a significant environmental threat. In this article, the authors address overconsumption from the individual level, discussing the problems associated with identifying overconsumption and general approaches that can be used to reduce consumption.