Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rising Middle Classes and Environmental Impact

My husband and I just got into an interesting discussion regarding the environmental impact that we are having on the world as a whole and the topic of the rising middle class in China came up because he had seen it on the interview with Ted Koppel on the Daily Show. It really got him thinking about the environmental impact that will be made by that emerging middle class (both in China and in India), many of whom are seeking the comfortable and autonomous lifestyle that is all too often taken for granted here in the United States.

I think everyone needs to really assess how they live and the impact that they are having. We have lived at the expense of the world and of other people for long enough. I have lately been trying to reassess how I can change things, but it is difficult to do so because some impacts are hard to determine. For example, the globalization of food has led to growing food that could be grown locally elsewhere because it can cost less money to do so (even if it actually uses more resources transporting the food around). Many ingredients used in a lot of pre-packaged foods come from all over and cannot be easily traced (as was evident with the wheat scare that caused the tainted pet foods and questioning of other foods that were made for human consumption). And many people rely on these pre-packaged foods due to their hectic schedules and their never having been taught to cook from scratch. So, it can be hard to figure out exactly where your food is coming from - even the so-called local markets may offer items that have been imported from afar. (This becomes more and more evident when things are offered that are not native to the area surrounding the local market.) And food is just one little part of this. (The globalization of food will be discussed at the upcoming July On Tap discussion at Llywelyn's.)

At any rate, the topic of overpopulation came up because the population is continuing to grow steadily. Privileged people are able to live longer than ever before due to medical advances, and so there are more children born who will have the opportunity to know their grandparents and even great-grandparents well. (This is wonderful, but it means that all of those people - children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents alike, are using resources.) On a previous episode of 30 Days, a pair of people left New York City to live at a more sustainable environmental development using as many renewable resources as possible, and it was calculated that it would still take more than two planets equivalent to this earth to sustain the world population in those conditions (as opposed to the much larger number based upon their everyday city lifestyles)!

How do we address these issues? How can we raise the level of comfort and help people escape the cycles of poverty while not further draining resources? And what about the escalating world population? I don't know. These are very complicated problems that I do not fully understand the impact of and must admit that I do not keep up enough with current events to have an educated opinion on the subject.

I do think that one of the strongest things we can do is better educate people, especially women, who in many cultures (including our own history) have been denied education while simultaneously being denied any sort of power over themselves and their own bodies (having been viewed as the property of the men in their lives - transferred from father to husband). I find it especially sad that women have so long been denied education while being charged with most of the child-rearing tasks because it creates a cycle of ignorance, since parents (especially those most involved in their children's lives) are often the most influential teachers.

But beyond that, I don't know. And educating people can be a slow and long process. What do you think?

1 comment:

ChaoticBlackSheep said...

Having now watched the Ted Koppel interview myself, the truly scary thing is how we have financed the war in Iraq by borrowing money from Japan & China instead of raising our taxes. I am more and more intrigued by the Ted Koppel specials on the Discovery Channel to see how intertwined all of this is and how it can affect us, for all that the four part series focuses on China and not Japan and India as well.