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Overconsuming: Mother Nature’s Laws of Supply and Demand

Everything you consume comes at a cost to the planet — energy uses finite fossil fuels, even food depletes land, water, and light resources. Living a green lifestyle means looking at the resources you consume and trying to consume within your means — and the planet’s.

Looking at overconsumption around the globe

Currently, the world’s population requires 1.3 planets to support itself according to the Global Footprint Network. Some of the ways we’re overtaxing planetary resources include:

  • Approximately 75 percent of oceanic fisheries are heavily overfished to the point where governments are setting catch quotas to help give the fish populations time to recover.

  • Farms in the United States are removing topsoil — the richest, most productive part of the soil — more than 18 times faster than it can be replenished.

  • Water resources are declining worldwide, and some politicians and scientists believe that future conflicts between countries may be based on competition for water.

Focusing on U.S. consumption

In 2006, the Center for Environment and Population reported the following figures:

  • The United States has approximately 5 percent of the world’s population and uses 25 percent of the world’s natural resources.

  • The United States uses three times more water per person than the world average.

  • The United States uses almost 25 percent of the world’s energy.

  • The United States is the world’s single largest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, with almost 25 percent of all global emissions. (Carbon dioxide is one of the major greenhouse gases linked to climate change.)

These numbers show a real need for action in the United States, but developed countries aren’t solely to blame. Unrestricted garbage dumping and unlegislated greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries are just as much of an issue.

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