Immoral consumption


“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.” World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, penned by Henry Kendall, former chair of the Union of Concerned Scientist’s board of directors, November 1992.

An attempt has been made to measure “human demand on nature” resource usage in terms of an ecological footprint, expressed in global hectares per capita. This concept was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees.

Bluntly stated, when the ecological footprint of a human population exceeds the carrying capacity, the result is overpopulation.

According to Rees, in his 29 minute long video, Warning To the People of Earth, a sustainable per capital ecological footprint is about 2 gha, which is where we find countries like Cuba.

Immoral consumption occurs in countries of the world that have an ecological footprint that significantly exceeds 2 gha.

Obscene consumption occurs in countries of the world that have an ecological footprint that significantly exceeds 2 gha, and have a significant biocapacity deficit.

Here are a five countries with data about them:

Eco footprint Biocapacity Deficit (-) / reserve (+)
USA 8.22 3.76 – 4.46
Canada 8.17 16.01 + 7.83
Ireland 5.57 3.73 – 1.83
Norway 4.98 8.18 + 3.19
Cuba 1.95 0.76 – 1.19

USA, Canada, Ireland and Norway all have immoral levels of consumption. In addition, USA and Ireland’s consumption levels are obscene. Cuba has an acceptable level of consumption, but even this low level exceeds the country’s biocapacity. It will either have to export a surplus population, or import goods from countries with reserve capacity.

Note: It is not that easy for individuals living in these countries to do something alone. Over consumption is a systemic problem, not an individual one.

Some reference materials

Rees, W. E. (October 1992). “Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out”. Environment and Urbanisation. 4 (2): 121–130. doi:10.1177/095624789200400212.

Rees, W. E. and M. Wackernagel (1994) Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: Measuring the natural capital requirements of the human economy, in Jansson, A. et al.. Investing in Natural Capital: The Ecological Economics Approach to Sustainability. Washington D.C.:Island Press. ISBN1-55963-316-6

Wackernagel, M. (1994). Ecological Footprint and Appropriated Carrying Capacity: A Tool for Planning Toward Sustainability (PDF) (PhD thesis). Vancouver, Canada: School of Community and Regional Planning. The University of British Columbia. OCLC 41839429.

Wackernagel, M. and W. Rees. 1996. Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-312-X.

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (November 1992):

To mark the 25th anniversary of this original notice, a second notice has been recently issued 13 November 2017, which intensifies the urgency of the first:


8 Classes of People

There are two types of people – those who refuse to classify people, and those who put everyone into some sort of category.

Here, we are going to strip everyone of their individualism and insist that they place themselves into one of eight ranked groups. These rankings reflect the degree to which an individual is engaged in do-it-yourself activities.

Sometimes, literary sources can be just as schizophrenic as the authors writing about them. Such is the case here. Reading one finds that the phase do-it-yourself is “has its origins in 1950 – 1955”, at the same time that it is used “as a modifier, attested by 1941. The expression is much older.” Depending on what “much older” means, one might be able to call it a mid-20th century term. It relates to amateurs, and is defined as “the practice or hobby of building or repairing things for oneself, usually in one’s own home.”

Class 0. User

This class of person has no role in the acquisition of an object, but in some manner of speaking has that object thrust upon them for their use.

Class 1. Shopper

There are two operative words that distinguish a shopper from a user. The first is that the shopper selects the object. The second that she pays for it.

Class 2. Assembler

Here one is entering the “flat-pack” universe. Ideally, an assembler can follow instructions, so that the object ends up looking and functioning as intended.

Class 3. Hacker

The primary characteristic of a hacker is her ability to modify an object, especially in terms of appearance or operation.

Class 4. Constructor

It is at this level that fabrication skills become important. Craftsmanship is a term often used to describe the necessary skill sets. Since the start of the new millennium, many have seen computer programming as a new form of craftsmanship. For further details, see:

Class 5. Prototyper

Experimentation is a key word to describe the activities of someone in this class. Engineering is not an activity that leads instantly to nirvana. Vague ideas ha ve to be fleshed out. Proposed solutions have to be tweaked, teased and tinkered with. The results are not always beautiful.

Class 6. Designer

Once engineering is complete, product design can begin. While many think of aesthetics, ergonomics is also an important consideration. With design work completed, batch and other forms of small-scale production can be used to make a limited series of objects.

Class 7. Manufacturer

The preliminary step before large-scale manufacturing involves real-world testing. Not everyone will treat an object as delicately as its designer. Thus, it is important that insights be gained into how an object will be used, and misused. There will be few amateurs at this level but new opportunities are arising through programs such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

An inspiring real world example

Cedar Anderson’s work over a decade developing a revolutionary bee hive shows just what can be done. World class innovation, performed by amateurs. See: especially the Flow Story.

Three generations of the Andersons, with their revolutionary bee hive (Photo: