BY: FAEZEH ENSAFI
Population growth and per capita consumption are recognized as correlating factors in environmental problems, hence need to be addressed while looking for a solution. Population growth is at the rate of 1.3 percent per year and projected population in 2050 is 9 billion. Following this increase, there’s a growth in demand for production. Therefore, per capita consumption is increasing drastically at a higher rate than population growth. Technology today plays an important part of humans’ impact on the environment. With the aim of increasing efficiency in energy or material, technology has enabled humans to extract a greater output with the same amount of input (resource depletion by humans) in order to make specific things. However, such technological improvements cannot solely address the decrease in demand and per capita consumption. Therefore, for following reasons I believe technology cannot sufficiently solve the joint impact of population and per capita consumption and agree with Kates that there should be a change in our values to reduce consumption, reuse materials and find happiness in ways other than consuming. Technology can only partly address population problem. According to Kates with the rise of information technology and science the rate of population growth have decreased over time –specifically after late 1980s when the peak annual growth took place –yet, population growth along with its impacts still exists. Technology has been able to provide human with efficiency which is not sufficiently helpful to address the problem because of the following reasons: Firstly, environmental resources are limited and technology cannot expand resources. Secondly, technological efficiencies cannot address growth in per capita consumption due to population growth. For instance motor vehicle consumption is reduced to half but the number of the vehicles have doubled. Thirdly, efficiency eventually reduces cost therefore increases demand and per capita consumption (Jevon’s effect). Considering the tremendous growing per capita consumption due to population growth, the global environment cannot support a future consumer generation of 8-9 billion populations. Technologies such as recycling have been widely deployed to solve the issue. However, recycling technologies still include energy usage (energy used for transporting the recycles) and contribute to the issue in some ways. Given the rate population consumption growth and therefore consumption, there’s a limit to how much recycling can address resource depletion by the consumer society. According to Durning reducing consumption might be the our only option to address our issue. Nonetheless, I would argue that reducing consumption in a consumer society is explicitly difficult to apply due to the behavioral normativity of consumption. Consequently, three stages of reducing consumption, reusing and recycling goods can jointly address per capita consumption. We live in a society run by capitalism where the word “person” is synonymous with “consumer”. In 1953, the chairman of President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers canonized the new economic gospel: The economy’s “ultimate purposed” he proclaimed, was “to produce more consumer goods” (Durning, 30). Technology not only cannot decrease consumerism and per capita consumption but it’s in fact an important element of the capitalist society (Desai, Meghnad). Moreover, people increasingly measure success by amount they consume (Durning, 19). In such atmosphere of ever-increasing demand for production, happiness is achieved through consumerism. However, psychological evidence shows that the relationship between consumption and personal happiness is weak (Durning, 23). Thus, we can shift our values and seek happiness in dematerialized forms of consumption. For instance, substituting information for energy and material consumption, and reusing high-quality durable material are some ways to reduce if not stop, resource depletion along with its environmental impacts.