Less is More

July 15th, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Less is More

Poverty and famine are the greatest injustices known to humankind. As much as you may try, if this is not your condition, it’s pretty near impossible to completely comprehend what poverty truly feels like. The average American consumes 43 times as much as the average African. Perhaps worse, the average cat in Europe leaves a larger environmental footprint than the average African.

If we want to abolish famine and poverty in our world (and indeed we should) then we will also see the relationship of American consumption to African consumption go down. On the surface that’s a beautiful result. However, if a population has more wealth (which is the driver that gets you out of poverty), they tend to also use more resources. Currently, the world population is around 6 billion. By 2050, most scientists agree that we will reach 9 billion. This simply doesn’t work. From where we are now, we will need to triple our production of goods and services to sustain this population growth. It’s difficult to imagine that we can triple our production in the next 40 years. So . . . ironically what helps us manage our resources and the world population is the fact that there are considerable populations who live in poverty. This is a terribly sad part of the equation. As a population pulls itself from poverty and acquires more wealth, it will typically use more resources. As more resources are used, our planet (as we know it) becomes less sustainable. What really needs to change is the populations that already have plenty need to use far less; and that is not a change that comes easy. People love their comforts and luxuries and we see no reason that we shouldn’t have as much as we want. Quite honestly, it’s really at the heart of our system. That’s what pure capitalism is. Go for as much as you can get . . . and enjoy. But this is not sustainable – not any more!

The problem can easily seem like a population problem – we simply have too many people. And while we definitely need to get a handle on managing population growth, the real issue isn’t so much how many people we have; but rather it’s the quantity of resources we are using. As we begin to eliminate poverty, we must become more efficient and effective stewards of the earth’s resources. The well is not bottomless.

If we truly want to help our environment, it’s not so much about doing more . . . it’s actually about doing less, or at least using less. This is the key to a sustainable global lifestyle.             Less is indeed more!