Magazine article Pacific Ecologist

The Biggest Confidence Trick of All Time: The Efforts of Developed Countries to Persuade So-Called "Developing" Countries to Emulate Their Affluent Lifestyles Are Neither Desirable nor Honest, Writes Edward Goldsmith, Founding Editor of the Ecologist (UK). before They Proceed Very Far along the Affluence Way Their Development Will Be Cut Short by Various Factors

Magazine article Pacific Ecologist

The Biggest Confidence Trick of All Time: The Efforts of Developed Countries to Persuade So-Called "Developing" Countries to Emulate Their Affluent Lifestyles Are Neither Desirable nor Honest, Writes Edward Goldsmith, Founding Editor of the Ecologist (UK). before They Proceed Very Far along the Affluence Way Their Development Will Be Cut Short by Various Factors

Article excerpt

Underlying all our relations with the so-called "developing nations" is the dogma that at all costs they must enjoy the benefits of affluence. Few have questioned the desirability of this goal, still fewer its feasibility. Yet its desirability is highly questionable, for the present disintegration of affluent societies may well be attributed to affluence itself rather than to any of its avoidable manifestations, while its total unfeasibility is demonstrable to anyone who knows how to count.

Let's make this clear: The developed countries are insatiable consumers. The USA, for instance, with roughly 6.5% of the world's population, consumes more than a third of the world's power output (1,956.95 million metric torts of coal equivalent, out of a world total of 5,614.35 million in 1967), and has nearly half of the world's motor cars (95,582,000 out of a world total of 214,120,000).

If we supposed by some miracle the whole world achieved the US standard of living, this would mean a 35-fold increase in world energy consumption (to nearly 200,000 million tons) and an 18-fold increase in the number of motorcars (to 3,500 million). Fortunately, such worldwide affluence will never be achieved--for a number of obvious reasons. One is the amount of global pollution that would be generated.

Let us consider radioactive pollution. If the world's per capita output of nuclear power attained that of Britain today it would be about 560,000 megawatts, which is about 70 times the world's present total. Due to the terrifying toxicity of the many radioactive isotopes which would be let loose into the sea and air, some of which achieve concentrations of up to 100,000 in certain marine organisms, the effect on life, especially sea life, might well prove disastrous.

Indeed, according to Professor G. Polykarpov, "further radioactive contamination of the seas and oceans is inadmissible."

Nor would the world be able to support the amount of heat that would have to be generated to produce so many goods and services.

According to a report by the Committee for Environmental Information prepared for the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy in January 1970, if 7 billion people reached the US standard of power consumption, "the waste heat produced by the entire world's generating plants will reach about 370 million billion BTU. In one way or another, this waste heat will be carried away by the evaporation of water and will result in an increase of 1 percent of the total water vapour present in the world's atmosphere each year ... this means the rest of the world cannot match the US present electrical standard of living. The world could not contain the waste heat which the consumption of such massive quantities would require. …

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