Our home country dictates our impact on the planet’s resources. As a UK citizen, you will share the high ecological cost of the sophisticated infra-structure, health, social care and education that is available to all UK citizens. The data provided by the Global Footprint Network allows us to calculate roughly how big a population our earth can sustain if we all shared the lifestyle of a particular country. Bill Dowling of the Scientists Warning Europe organisation has used the available GFN data for different countries to arrive at the estimates below.
- North American lifestyle: Earth might sustain 1.5 Billion people
- UK, Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal lifestyles: Earth might sustain 2 to 3 Billion people
- Sri Lankan lifestyle: Earth might sustain 8 Billion people
- Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Yemen: Earth might sustain 14 to 16 Billion people
The world population is currently close to 8 billion. Experts calculate that with the lifestyle mix on Earth currently, only 4 billion are sustainable. We are surviving on ecological capital which is fast diminishing. This is why we are seeing rapid ecological collapse in the 2020 figures from WWF. We have already destabilised our environment very significantly, and yet we still persist with the behaviours that exacerbate the ecological problems further.
All the countries in the over-developed world have an unsustainable way of life to varying degrees. Ideally we need to undergo a paradigm shift in our outlook, so that we voluntarily seek Degrowth before we really start to feel the pinch. If we fail to do this then our numbers and our behaviour will become limited by natural causes: increasingly extreme weather events, disease, starvation and our own destructive behaviour as we compete over dwindling resources.
In our current society, the level of environmental damage that an individual is responsible for tends to increase as their affluence increases. This is mainly due to a lack of education about the importance for ecological balance in our school curriculum. Even the poorest UK citizens will be in the top 10% category of affluence. This is because of the high eco-cost of our social infrastructure.