The world's growing population is just one part of the crisis we face. Any discussion of the problems of a swelling global population must be accompanied by a parallel discussion of the patterns of human consumption of earth's resources. We are cutting the world's forests, drinking its freshwater, mining its minerals, and trawling its seas at rates that would have seemed inconceivable just a few decades ago. Today we use nearly twice the amount of energy we did in 1970, and it is expected that energy use will increase by another 60 percent by 2020 (EIA/DOE, 2002).
Although the number of people that the earth can support is a matter of heated debate, the answer ultimately comes down to the sort of life we would wish those people to have. If we aspire to a global community that enjoys the level of comfort of today's average U.S. or European citizen, then we have already greatly exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. On the other hand, if we were all to emulate the consumption patterns of the average citizen in Bangladesh or Bolivia, we could envision a world in which many more people could live sustainably.
Half the world still exists on less than $2 per day (UNFPA, 2001). This difference in purchasing power translates into unequal consumption patterns of every conceivable resource. For example, as the consumption of energy exploded over the last century and a half, the distribution of that energy use also underwent a dramatic transformation. In 1700
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