A new publication by the Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs
2001: The Trends That are Shaping Our Future, paints an
uneven and possibly frightening picture resulting from society's
ravenous appetites. 'We're eating more meat, drinking more coffee,
popping more pills, driving further and getting fatter.' Expanding
waistlines may sound like the only drawback to this scenario, but
they're not. The impact of our culture of production and
consumption has dire consequences for the entire planet -- both
those who 'have' and those who 'have not.'
One only needs to turn on the evening news to see the burgeoning effects brought on by our insatiable appetites. Our growing taste for bountiful and easily affordable meat has led to farming practices that contribute to major water and soil pollution and has led to the rampant spread of such maladies as foot and mouth disease and 'Mad Cow' disease.
The increase of auto travel and the insistence on powering our lifestyles by traditional fossil fuel sources, has lead to a rapid decline in the health quality of our atmosphere. The manufacturing of materials needed to sate our binges, such as gasoline, aluminum, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is enormously polluting and their demand is on the rise. Clearly, our lifestyles are fouling and ravaging the planet.
Yet while the world's middle class is growing, and living high-on-the-hog, many people of earth are living a stagnant, if not declining existence. While pharmaceuticals are rapidly being developed for diseases that afflict the industrialized world, there is conversely less emphasis on cures for ailments that afflict developing nations.
But, the future is not all rife with doom and gloom, says the World Watch report. People are increasingly taking steps to lessen their impact on the planet. The support of environmentally sensitive shade-grown coffees is growing. Technological advances have made alternative sources of fuel such as wind and solar power more easily accessible and affordable.
'The power of consumer choice cannot be underestimated,' say the report's authors. '[F]or good or bad it can sicken or save our planet.'