In the past, the Western standard of living in terms of energy and resource consumption has set North America and Western Europe apart from the rest of the world. In the last few decades, however, major economic growth in the developing world has promoted a shift towards a more “Western” lifestyle across the globe. This shift manifests itself in increased energy use, increased meat consumption, increased international trade, and land-use change. The burning question is whether or not this level of consumption is sustainable. What sort of planet will future generations inherit?
Here are some quick facts about the recent globalization of consumerism:
- Between 1971 and 2007, yearly global energy consumption increased by around 4000 Mtoe (millions of tons of oil equivalent)1:
- During that period, some regions of the world increased their energy use more than others as they underwent development and their economies grew:
- Consumption of meat has almost tripled since 1960, with a marked increase in the amount of meat consumed in developing nations.
- World agriculture, including livestock production, accounts for around 0ne-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, a contribution comparable to that of industry (McMichael et al. 2007).
- Between 1950 and 2004, world trade grew at an average rate of 5.9% per year. Manufacturing trade grew at a rate of 7.2% per year (Hummels 2007).
Explore the links at the top of the page to see how consumption is changing in specific regions of the world and how these changes are impacting the environment.