Footprints on the Planet

This world has such a yearning for more ‘stuff’ that the population is actually using more of the worlds resources than it has, and guess who is to blame the most? America, of course. The USA manages to consume such a disproportional amount that they make 5% of the worlds population but use 20% of the energy. In addition, they eat 15% of the worlds meat but produce a incredible 40% of the worlds waste. This means that if all 7 billion of us lived like a Yankee then we would need 4.1 Earth’s to support our needs. This can be compared to Bangladesh where, theoretically, 7 billion Bangladeshi people could live off Asia and part of Africa – well under half the worlds land.  The UK has an ecological footprint of approximately 4.8 which is unsustainable but relatively good compared to the worst country where Qatar has a footprint of over 11.

I believe that I contribute a relatively minimal amount to this quite serious problem as I do my best to be as sustainable as possible. I am someone that habitually recycles everything that’s recyclable and feel guilty when I do not. Always turning appliances off when not needed is important to me and I cycle where ever I can rather than taking the bus or driving.  I believe, because of this, I have a potentially lower carbon footprint than the average student. When taking the carbon footprint calculator at I learnt that it would take 2.32 earth’s to sustain the population if everyone lived the way I do. And this is potentially below average so I can say with confidence that all 7.2 billion of us need to work together to save our planet, particularly the western world. If we do not work together then the implications of increased carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere are horrendous. Such effects include global warming leading to climate change and extreme weather, sea level rise and harmful impact on agriculture. These in themselves should be a motivation for people to live sustainable with a minimal impact on the environment.

Of course, it is virtually impossible to live in today’s society without contributing in some way even if only a minute amount. Everyone has a home that has heating and electricity and everyone buys products that in some way have had a negative effect on the environment. In any case, we can all do our own bit by turning off lights and appliances when not needed, cycling or using public transport when possible, eating local food and installing loft insulation and double glazing windows.

Increasing inequalities

“UK [is the] most unequal country in the west” According to the Telegraph the UK has a rich and poor gap the same size as Nigeria and worse than Ethiopia.

It was the view of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan that if the rich got richer then everybody would benefit. Thatcher even called on us to “glory” in this society of inequality. However, now the Organisation and Economic Cooperation, the Rich Nations Club and the World Bank are going against it. In addition, many economists are saying that this unequal type of economy will hinder growth. Michael Bruno, chief economist of the World Bank said “Reducing inequality not only benefits the poor immediately but will benefit all through higher growth”. I agree with this statement as this means more people will be able to do more spending thus increasing economic growth. Although the rich obviously have copious amounts of money, this doesn’t mean they will be able to buy as much as the extensive middle class should the inequality gap be much smaller than it currently is.

London takes pride in being the number 1 richest city in western Europe. This is contrast with the poorest regions in the UK also being the poorest in Europe. West Wales takes the number 1 spot of being the poorest region in western Europe followed by Cornwall, Durham and Lincolnshire with Hainaut in Belgium at 9th place being the first non-UK poor region. London is also home to more billionaires than any other city in the world with a property market increasing faster than any other part of the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. These facts just go to show how prevalent inequality in the UK is.

This shows how economically diverse the UK is and how separated London is from the UK. To put it generally, when the rest of the world thinks of England they think of London not Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge or any other large city. London is on a par with New York as one of the top world cities and the main reason the UK is the 6th biggest economy in the world is because of London being an Alpha++ city.

Sustainability is linked by the society, environment and the economy

It is the way of our society to live a consumerism lifestyle which entails people constantly buying products. This lifestyle is partly driven by businesses which market their products to convince people they actually need their products as well as by planned obsolescence – the policy that products are manufactured to become obsolete either by becoming unfashionable or losing function. The perfect example is the light bulb which typically lasts about 2 years but can potentially last for ever.  These products have most likely had some impact on the environment whether it be through the extraction of fossil fuels, pollution caused by the factory or transport of the product. This process of consumerism does have a positive impact on economical growth which is generated by employment and sales of products as the economy is virtually built on consumerism. However, since consumerism is not sustainable in itself, it cannot sustain the economy eternally.

Getting out of National Debt – how bad is it?

With the coalition government we have, there has been a lot of public spending which is good now but the government doesn’t always have the money it spends. This borrowing and spending results in the country being in enormous national debt.

Is this a sensible decision?

Well, on the one hand, a lot of the spending did need to happen particularly with healthcare and education and more recently defence. The NHS is in a financial crisis as the deficit is heading towards a hefty £1 billion. More than half of all hospitals are in deficit with the service likely to be ending this year in the red. In addition, spending on education is vitally important in fostering economic growth. Of course, this is an indirect impact as generally, the more educated people are, the higher paid jobs they will potentially have which can promote extensive spending. More spending makes businesses more profitable which in turn means they can potentially employ more workers with higher salaries and so the process starts again.

On the other hand however, getting into debt does not do anyone any favours in the long term. The more the government gets into debt, the more it will need money to repay later which means more of the public’s taxes and less on areas that need it such as health, work and pensions, education and welfare. The national debt is higher than it’s been for around two decades but when taken into account with the whole of the 20th century it is relatively very low. However, the country can not run large deficits forever and the more it builds up, the higher the interest payments will be. Sustainability is also a big part of economics and running into large amounts of debt with incurring interest payments is not an example of good sustainability, particularly as countries/organisations become reluctant to lend money to the government.

I think that the government could afford to make cuts in some areas in order to pay off their large debts. Such areas could include disability allowance and benefits. Now, I’m not in anyway against disabled people receiving a government allowance but I know that some people don’t actually require it and so don’t tend to claim it. However they could claim it if they weren’t honest and this is where the government is too generous I think. In addition, many people manage to make a living off state benefits without actually looking for work. There are 20.3 million (64%) families claiming benefits with many people not even job seeking, which means the government is shelling out on potentially wasteful benefits when it could be spent better elsewhere such as healthcare or education where it will be put to good use. By claiming benefits and not working i.e. not being economically active, they are slightly hindering economic growth. As benefit spending is the second largest government expenditure in the country I believe this could be cut significantly for the reasons mentioned above.

I am afflicted by affluenza, and to be honest, I’m not worried about it.

Sustainability can be defined as “the ability or capacity of something to maintain itself by taking what we have now without jeopardising the potential for people in the future to meet their needs”

 Introduction – just a briefing on how serious the issue is and how lightly it is sometimes taken by society

By living in a sustainable manner, we will be confident in knowing that future generations will be able to enjoy a similar quality of life as we do currently. Unfortunately we are living in an age where sustainability does not take precedence.

An obvious example of how we are not sustainable is us using up the planets fossil fuels so we can produce fuel and materials. This is linked to our attitude of always wanting more – which is attributed to the disease Affluenza by consumerism critics.

For me, personally, I am to a certain extent certainly afflicted by Affluenza but not extensively. I’m proud to value the non-materialistic qualities in life such as inter-personal relationships and the appreciation of cultures. However, I can’t deny that I also value the physical objects in my life, which is where I have to disagree with the statement as I do find it a worrying matter. When one thinks about it, virtually everything we have in our life has been made in a factory using the earth’s resources which we have very likely bought from a shop. This means at the top of our list of life priorities along with our family and friends, we as a society put factory made, characterless objects which are owned by millions of people. In a way this can be considered boring and impersonal so it is better to put our values on non-materialistic qualities. If one was to imagine a world without anything made in a factory we would be sat naked in a field with only the flora and fauna and other people to accompany us. That is how much our society is governed by materialism. Of course, there is a happy medium but in my view the majority of the western population has gone well over that line, indulging ourselves in consumerism.

What are your values?

People are spending more time at work so they can earn more money so they can buy more things which they may not necessarily need. This is lowering the amount of time parents spend with their family and other life enjoyments which you don’t need to pay for but which last longer. This situation has caused many children to lose a fatherly figure for a major part of their lives.

“Consumerism has created a culture which values style over substance, image over reality, and perception over performance”

-Skye Jethani