By Ashley Miller
Overconsumption: The Major Environmental Concern of Today
Our planet and life as we know it is in grave danger! Did you know that, in 2007, humans need for natural resources had surpassed the amount of resources the earth had to offer by fifty percent? What this means is that it would take one and a half planets to fill the overwhelming need for natural resources in order to serve mankind. By 2030, people will require such a great amount of resources to sustain the current level of consumption that our earth will eventually fail to provide this need (WWF 9). Natural resources that humans are consuming at a significant rate include materials, water, energy, and fertile land. These resources support all living life on earth, and due to humans increasing need for natural resources we are causing severe damage to our planet. Some of the effects that we are seeing due to the overconsumption of these resources include reductions in many things such as clean water supply, fish numbers, and woodlands. We are seeing many more species coming closer and closer to being placed on the endangered species list and our rich fertile soil is diminishing quickly (Giljum et al. 3). We are also seeing a significant change in our climate due to rising levels of greenhouse gases. Many people believe that overconsumption is a result of overpopulation which makes overpopulation out to be the larger issue, but it isn’t. Overconsumption of natural resources should be a separate, distinct issue and should be addressed as the major environmental concern of today, not overpopulation.
There are many reasons why overconsumption should be the main environmental concern of today. First of all, humans need natural resources and ecosystems in order to survive on this planet. According to Ehrlich and Goulder, some natural resources are essential to well-being and some are even critical to life itself. Being able to sustain these natural resources and ecosystems is essential to human life (1146). When humans consume resources at a rate in which they cannot be replenished this creates a major problem for all life and the ecosystems in which all life depends. Services that the ecosystems provide include water filtration, crop pollination, climate regulation, nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, and soil formation. It also includes goods that are taken directly from the ecosystems like food, medicine, wood, and biofuel (WWF 10). Many of the services that ecosystems provide cannot be replaced. When these services are threatened by human activities it causes the ecosystems to become strained eventually leading to ecosystem failure. “The dependency of human society on ecosystem services makes the loss of these services a serious threat to the future well-being and development of all people around the world” (WWF 12). All of the effects of overconsumption put direct pressure on the “biodiversity” that supports ecosystem services (WWF). Many of the effects from overconsumption stem from human demands. These demands are for food, water, energy and materials. Also, there is a substantial need for space for towns, cities, and infrastructure (WWF 12).
Food production, housing, mobility and manufactured products contribute greatly to the environmental pressures. These pressures include climate change, land, water and energy use, habitat loss and pollution. Building homes contributes to significant amounts of direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases and particulate matter. Transportation leads to habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution. “Private vehicles are by far the largest contributor to impacts from mobility. Manufactured products are either the second or third most important contributor to the carbon footprint of rich countries” (Huijbregts 79). Fossil fuel extraction and the production processes involving fossil fuel combustion are major...