Special report: The facts about overconsumption

"The two sets of graphs, right, illustrate how human activity has changed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the impacts that our societies have had on the Earth as a whole.

All figures are taken, with the kind permission of the publishers, from:

Steffen W, Sanderson A, Tyson P D, Jäger J, Matson P, Moore III B, Oldfield F, Richardson K, Schellnhuber H-J, Turner II B L and Wasson R J (2004) Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure. The IGBP Book Series, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 336 pp

Specific references used are as follows:

Blunier T, Chappellaz J, Schwander J, Barnola J-M, Desperts T, Stauffer B, Raynaud D (1993) "Atmospheric methane record from a Greenland ice core over the last ...."Geophysical Research Letters, vol 20, p 2219-2222

Canning D (1998) World Bank: A database of world infrastructure stocks, 1950-95. World Bank, Washington DC

Etheridge D M, Steele L P, Langenfelds R L, Francey R J, Barnola J-M, Morgan V I (1996) "Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last ...." Journal of Geophysical Research, vol 101, p 4115-4128

FAOSTAT (2002) Statistical Databases. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

International Fertilizer Industry Association (2002) Fertilizer Ind...

Klein Goldewijk K, Battjes J J (1997) "One hundred year (1890 - 1990) database for integrated environmenta...." National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Bilthoven, Netherlands

Machida T, Nakazawa T, Fujii Y, Aoki S, Watanabe O (1995) "Increase in the atmospheric nitrous oxide concentration during the ...." Geophysical Research Letters, vol 22, p 2921-2924

Mackenzie F T, Ver L M, Lerman A (2002) "Century-scale nitrogen and phosphorus controls of the carbon cycle."Chemical Geology, vol 190, p 13-32

Mann M E, Bradley R S, Hughes M K (1999) "Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: infere...Geophysical Research Letters, vol 26(6), p 759-762

McDonalds homepage

Nordhaus (1997) "Do real wage and output series capture reality? The history of ligh..." In: Bresnahan T, Gordon R (eds) The economics of new goods. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. (Download the chapter as a PDF)

OFDA/CRED (2002) Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT): The OFDA (United States Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance)/CRED (Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster) international disaster database. Louvain Catholic University, Belgium

Pulp and Paper International (1993) "PPI's international fact and price book". In: FAO forest product yearbook 1960-1991. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

Richards J (1990) "Land transformation." In: Turner II B L, Clark W C, Kates R W, Richards J F, Mathews J T, Meyer W B (eds)The Earth as transformed by human action: Global and regional changes in the biosphere over the past 300 years. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge pp 163-201

Shiklomanov I A (1990) "Global water resources." Nature and Resources, vol 26(3)

UN Center for Human Settlements (2001) The state of the world's cities, 2001. United Nations

UNEP (2000) Global environmental outlook 2000. Clarke R (ed), United Nations Environment Programme

US Bureau of the Census (2000) International Database.

Wilson E O (1992) The diversity of life. Allen Lane, the Penguin Press

World Bank (2002) Data and statistics

World Commission on Dams (2000) Dams and development: A new framework for decision-making. The Report of the World Commission on Dams. Earthscan Publications Ltd, London and Sterling, VA

WRI (1990) "Forest and rangelands." In: A Guide to the Global EnvironmentWorld Resources Institute, Washington DC pp 101-120

World Tourism Organization (2001) Tourism industry trends. Industry Science Resources"

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Replies to This Discussion

There are people in the Himalayas who practice polyandry in order to keep their populations from getting out of hand and keep land and ownership within the family. In such cases, a woman is married to the oldest son, who is sole heir to the lands and property of his family. Often, his younger brothers will enter the marriage as well, sharing the work of the farm. Jealousy is avoided by each husband having a night in turns with their wife. This way of life may change in the future, with the introduction of Western concepts of romance.

As a Western female, I can't imagine having so many husbands. LOL But I do wonder if we oughtn't adjust the way we see families... I would love to be a mom, but between my personal insistence on not having children without a mate, and knowing the world is overpopulated as it is, I probably won't have the chance. However, I see no problem with a group of people who are family in all but name and blood raising a child or children (either by one of their members or through adoption). The problem I suppose lies in the very transient way of life modern society promotes. People don't tend to stay in the same situation for 20-30 years as they once had.

What can and what will we do in order to stop this acceleration of expenditure on our planet?

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