American Consumption: The Overview

We’ve all read or watched stories like the Hunger Games where a government has created laws restricting its citizens from basic resources in order to prevent over consumption, necessitated by the barrenness of the world they inhabit. The goal of modern day environmental movements is to put society on a path that avoids forcing future humanity to live like this, and in tandem, future governments not being forced to enact extremely restrictive laws similar to the ones in the series. One of the few ways of preventing futures like the ones we read about is to think critically about how we affect our planet, what we have available to us, and how we are choosing to use our resources. America is not the number one polluter, but having grown up in and currently living in America, I see many ways for us to change that would set us on a more sustainable future.

We first need to address the climate we live in; political and otherwise. Most models pertaining to climate change that display a progression of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will show a significant increase around the time of the industrial revolutions that have taken place across the world. With these great advancements, people are afforded standards of living that would seem unobtainable by the masses of the pre-industrial revolution and to some of them, unimaginable. It’s not stretch to say that we are all better off due this revolution but today, in American culture, we are waging a political war with one another regarding how much we should be forced to change our lives in the regards to the environment. Regardless of where one may stand on the current science regarding our planets atmospheric trajectory, there are a few facts we should all be able to accept.

 

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The most basic fact is that short of the natural qualities of our atmosphere like sunlight, wind, etc., we have a finite amount of every other resource. This one isn’t hard to take on board, but usually where most thoughts diverge is around the question of how much of these resources is every person entitled to consume? This is something I don’t think one can answer without mapping out tons and tons of data. However, we should all be able to agree that reducing our consumption, at least in some measurable way, is the right way forward.

In order to understand the scope of our impact, it’s important to look at where we stand in conjunction with the rest of the world. America ranks 2nd in total CO2 emissions by country and 7th with emissions per capita. It ranks 2nd in the world for total MSW (municipal solid waste). While looking at per capita for solid waste we look much better, but we still have to reconcile the numerous areas we have to improve and the amount of our waste that goes unrecycled. With Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, he accomplished the remarkable of feat of bringing nearly every world leader together on the opinion that this was a universally bad move. He has also awoken individual activism in those of us who care about the environment and unfortunately, for the time being, it’s up to us to pave a more sustainable future.   

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