Wealth Gap and Ecological Footprint

The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.
Karl Marx

I have left out something important before talking about green consumers and some other economic law’s application: The need of a more equal world. I know this may sound like some kind of leftist moralistic dogma, but there is an economic truth behind. Please keep reading.

In the middle age, all the countries were poor. I am not talking about poor for today’s standards, I am talking about lack of health, short life spams, no roads, no communications, illiteracy… the world was dominated by a few very rich people and the knowledge was guarded by few scientist and monks. This was the feudal system was on and everybody was in pretty much the same poor condition. Enters the bourgeoisie and this changes; a new class is born of merchants and traders. Then the industrial revolution created, in the 1700’s a new powerful class of industrial men and the beginning of the modern world.

These milestones didn’t end the disparity. The gap between the rich and the poor continued to growth and today remains an issue. As a rightist, you may say that yes, the gap is still there, but everyone is growing! The poor of today are rich when comparing with the poor of 100 years ago. All the countries are growing in the long term and people complaining are big girl’s blouses. You may even show us the World Economic Outlook from the IMF and point out a graphic showing the growth of almost all regions in the last 35 years:

Per Capita Income Growth

So, with the exception of Africa, everybody is growing! So, what if the Industrial Countries are bigger? Who cares?

The world is designed to hold so many people. We are currently 6 milliards (6,000,000,000) people. That is a lot of people! Now, the world surface that is able to sustain human activity is 10.8 billion of what we’ll call biologically productive global hectares, so there are 1.8 BPGHa per person in all the world. In North America, the average Mexican needs 2.5 BPGHa, the average Canadian 8.8 and the average US resident 9.6.

I did the test that the Earth Day Network has developed to calculate your personnel footprint. The results are sad for a poor recent grad!

Manuel's Footprint

So, my lifestyle is preventing at least two other persons to live with the minimum basic shelter, food and service. Of course, living in Canada, with the miserable winter, demands more resources that living in Costa Rica, but thit is what we get for living where the wind turns back. There are still so many places, like California, with milder weather conditions and 33 million cars for 35 million people.

So, the wealth gap is no more than stealing natural resources from the third world. The wealth gap is not sustainable and should be addressed before it is too late. That doesn’t mean that we all have to live like Gandhi to cut the gap, but there are more sustainable ways of living that, while keeping us comfortable, helps others to reduce their poverty.

You still don’t care?

Well, the wealth gap also means the following set backs for the rich economies:

  • Exporting social injustice,
  • Illegal immigrants and terrorism to other nations, as well as the goods.
  • Extinction, deforestation and social unrest

These problems affect us at home. Even if we dismiss all the implications of social injustice and inequity, the effects can be felt on our homeland.





5 Responses to Wealth Gap and Ecological Footprint

  1. Jorge says:

    Nice post, Manuel. The quiz you link to is also very interesting –after answering it I played with the numbers a bit. I was surprised my flying times offset so much the effort to be ecologically responsible in every other category (jumping from 2.2 BPGHa to 4.6!).

  2. Manuel Berlanga says:

    There are two very interesting twists in this exercise. The first is the fact that an airport would be the larger footprint that a city can have. In Toronto, Peason Airport is the largest footprint, the second is… York University! So the mere fact that you use the facility increase your BPGHa… The second twist is that, use the same data changing only the country. If you move to Mexico, the ecological print goes down a lot simply because the use of plastics, energy and resources is lot less intense (putting aside the climate), even though the recycle culture is almost non-existent.

  3. Billy bob says:

    While it’s nice to be nice, one look at hitsory tells you that the people that dominate and don’t give their wealth to other countries survive long-term, if you feed your enemies and give them your wealth when there are enormous population disparities (i.e. say U.S. versus Canada) you can count on the larger country with more wealth and population to invade as it expands.
    The fact is it’s not as simple as “capitalism versus communism” or economics… its human behaviour in every country. The poor breed the fastest and they create their own problems, the fact is people are PROGRAMMED by EVOLUTION to behave in a certain way and it’s this programming that leads to the downfall of civilizations.
    I do not for an instant believe that people are universally “nice” or “interested in peace”, people are interested in peace INSOFAR as it effects their standard of living, try taking away all the wealth from 356 or so wealthiest billionaires and see how they’d react, they’d want to bomb the living f**k out of you.
    As people get accustomed to a higher standard of living their evolutionary perception of wealth loss is substantial and makes humans fall back to aggressive animal instincts

  4. mcyclops says:

    I agree with you in everything you said, and that is exactly what I am looking for, that people do the right thing no because goodness of heart, but simply because it’s in their best interest. This is not about taking away people’s fortunes, the more people that can enhance their standard of living the better, but in a connected world the problems our consumption causes elsewhere will come down and hunt us: The fact that our consumption is fueled by sweatshops will result in illegal immigration to our countries, the poor breeding the fastest put heat on our social system that guess what, it’s paid by our taxes, and also increases crime. That is why I untitled this blog “left with brain”, we have to find an economic model that allow everyone to thrive without exploiting others, because that serves their best interest, no because we are Mother Theresa.

  5. Jorge says:

    Billy Bob,

    Evolution rewards cooperation. The whole success of the evolutionary strategy of mammals, including us, depends on the strong helping the weak and building trust relations that will save their own genes when things get rough for them.

    People *are* inherently nice to certain other people –a baby’s slow development and overreliance on his mother, for example, depends on it–, and generally speaking the closer someone is to you (genetically, personally, or culturally), the more your instincts will make you care.

    It’s true that people also are inherently wary of certain other people –of outsiders to their group. But we’ve slowly learned to dominate some of our destructive impulses to create larger civilizations, and there’s nothing that indicates that sharing wealth cannot be a learned and rationalized activity too.

    Finally, History negates your point: Every empire mankind has built has declined, no matter their degree of wealth sharing (which, by the way, has never been noticeably high).

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