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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rich and Wasteful

I recently saw some shocking graphs and figures on consumption in an article that said:
Using latest figures available, in 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption.”

I thought about the long, hot shower I had taken earlier because it was cold outside and felt slightly guilty. Since we have so many more resources than developing countries, we do not see the direct and immediate effects of our wasteful behaviours. And these wasteful behaviours extend far beyond long showers. We are wasteful with resources, labour and capital. The article shows that the costs necessary to access basic social services (ex basic education for all, basic health and nutrition) in all developing countries are less than the amount of money spent on, say, cosmetics in the United States, or Cigarettes in Europe.

The reality is that poorer people attach more value to their resources. For example, since they have limited amounts of water, people in developing countries pay more attention to conserving water and thus are more environmentally friendly. I actually observed this when I visited India and was taught how to use the bucket shower (see below). In a bucket shower, you fill the bucket with water, turn off the tap, and then use a cup to scoop up the water and pour it over you. With no running taps, this conserves water. I found it quite awkward and uncomfortable at first, but in just a week or so, I had actually become quite attached to using it.

While helping the developing world battle the deficits it faces, we should think about the mass amounts of resources being wasted in the developed world. This may help us realize how we can re-allocate some of our excess resources to the developing world. Or, more importantly, this can help us determine how to help set up structures and processes in developing countries that will prevent them from one day falling into the same wasteful lifestyle that we live. By learning from our mistakes, developing countries can avoid depleting their natural resources and damaging their environment in the future.

GlassFrog blogger, Sherisse

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