Everyone’s heard of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, but the world needs to address more than smokestacks and car exhausts. Below is a list of five areas necessary to build a sustainable world economy:
1. The Green Revolution brought technology to agriculture and ended imminent starvation for millions. Discrepancies in wealth, food distribution, and public policy are continuing barriers to ending world hunger, but a new barrier has emerged – diet. Counter to intuition, the world’s wealth poses the greatest threat to a sustainable food supply. World meat consumption is skyrocketing. Every pound of meat requires approximately seven pounds of grain to produce. Dr. Dean Ornish of UCSF has written and spoken extensively on the shift of the American and world diet and its impact on increasing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. New York Times’ columnist and author Mark Bittman echos this advice in his columns and practice – he limits his meat consumption to one meal a day.
2. Fossil fuel consumption has many problems, primarily scarcity. The environmental degradation to recover such fuels is clear from the accident in the Gulf of Mexico. Green house gases cannot be ignored either. The Bill Gates foundation has included a goal to pursue zero carbon emissions by 2050.
3. In Charles Leadbeater’s book We-Think he tells of encounters of innovation in the slums of emerging countries. The path of education to escape poverty is well known, but what does education have to do with a sustainable economy? Poverty is expensive and destructive. Wherever poverty exists in the world, unstable governments, ecological exploitation and warfare are sure to follow.
4. Swedish Professor of Public Health Hans Rosling’s TED speeches demonstrate that only through improved world health can population be controlled. He has shown a historical link of poverty and population growth. Countries with low child survival rates have high total fertility rates – the average number of children each woman bears in a lifetime.
5. Nowhere in the U.S. is the issue of water management more politicized than around the Colorado River. A source of energy and water for Southwestern States, the upstream demands have reduced the river to a trickle through Mexico and into the Gulf of California. Not unlike the Colorado, Uzbekistan’s neighbors have cried foul over excessive irrigation and hydro-electric generation leaving their nations short. Without the Amu Darya’s and Syr Darya’s water, those nations’ food production, and by extension, economies are rendered unstable.