Global Capitalism: The Exploited Planet
and The Torrent of
8th July 2011
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In my neck of the woods, this summer has been delightful. After
15 years of drought (punctuated by a few heavy rain events), this year has seen
a return to mid-1990s weather conditions. My dams are full, the gardens and
orchard flourishing. I am tempted to believe that the last 15 years were just a
drought after all. Perhaps we will, for the next 15 years, once again enjoy
'normal' weather patterns.
But, this is a La Niña season and it has been an
extreme one 2 .
To the north, major floods and cyclones have devastated vast
regions of Queensland, New South Wales, northern Western Australia and north
western Victoria. Elsewhere countries have been ravaged by floods and droughts
My good summer is due to capricious fortune – and some of my
cropping neighbours would question my claim that this has been a 'delightful'
Still, I can surely cling to a stubborn optimism and insist that
this is the way it will remain from now on (hopefully, without the disasters
visited upon others of course). I can throw away all my 'climate change'
placards, books and articles. They belong to a pessimistic past! The doomsayers
This new blog series will address the present impact of
capitalism, both on people and on our environments. A search of the internet to
find what is currently being written on these topics proved enlightening. There
are thousands of sites focussing on the issues. Many of them present very well
reasoned, informative, insightful and interesting material 4 .
The overwhelming consensus from these sites is that unregulated
capitalism, driven by snowballing consumerism, is propelling humanity toward a
precipice. The ravine is deep and the species may barely survive the plunge
5 . Yet, those involved
in capitalist enterprise and in consuming its products and services are
accelerating down that dead-end road as though it was an unlimited expressway to
Are we blind? Do we believe ourselves indestructible? Do we
believe that before we get there something or someone will provide us with a
bridge over the ravine 6 ?
It seems that our ideologies, beliefs and prejudices 7 lead many of us to disbelieve and
dismiss the thousands of clearly reasoned, well researched and documented
Perhaps we are suicidal.
Many of those who have arrogated the right to filter and
interpret what is presented to us as 'news' and 'informed commentary' 8 urge us to ignore the
warning signs – "No Through Road" and "Ravine Ahead".
Whatever the cause, the consequence is clear. We now live on a
grossly over-exploited planet, with a rapidly deteriorating biosphere. We are,
to change the metaphor and put it bluntly, defecating in both our own and other
communities' and species' nests 9 .
Globalised, deregulated capitalist organisations continue to
exploit the planet's resources at an accelerating pace 10 . Well-meaning,
often-concerned, Western people (and those who emulate their lifestyles)
continue to expand their needs and wants, accumulating increasing quantities of
marginally useful goods and consuming ever-more unnecessary goods and services.
Our garbage sites are filled with items we have thrown away:
outdated, defective or simply unwanted products and vast quantities of packaging
materials and industrial waste of various kinds 11 .
Few of us are immune to charges of profligacy. Recently a
refrigerator I purchased seven years ago died (my previous refrigerator, with
the same brand name, had lasted almost thirty years). The cost of fixing this
one was about half the cost of a new refrigerator, and the time taken for the
repair would result in a real inconvenience to me. So, I bought a new one and
had it delivered on the same day. The appliance store which supplied the new
fridge took away the old one. They didn't attempt to repair it, they took it to
a rubbish dump!
Despite my best endeavours, I find that I generate a remarkable
quantity of discarded plastic containers and wrapping materials of various
kinds. My weekly shopping seems to provide me with enough garbage to fill my
roadside garbage bin each month or two.
As an 11 year old at the start of the 1950s I had a job
delivering groceries by bicycle for a neighbourhood grocery shop. Most of the
goods sold by that corner store came to it in bulk. The owner would weigh
quantities on a set of scales, put items that needed it into paper bags and
other re-useable containers (often supplied by the customer), then pack
everything into a cardboard box. Empty containers in which the wholesale goods
came were usually returned to the place they came from by the person who
delivered the goods to the store.
I would put the box of groceries into the front carrier on the
shop bike and deliver it. The items would be unpacked onto the customer's
kitchen table and I would leave with the box, to be used in the next delivery.
Some people would save the brown paper bags when they were empty, neatly folding
them along their original creases so they might store more easily.
Very little was thrown away. A favourite way of earning a little
extra cash was to go to sports grounds after popular events and collect
discarded bottles. They could be returned to shops where we would get threepence
for each of them. Nobody thought twice about the premium they paid for this when
they bought their soft drinks.
But all that has changed. The corner shop has gone. Everything
comes pre-packaged in throw-away containers, some of it from absurdly distant
places! My keyboard, shampoo and soap come from Thailand (over 7000 km away), my
mouthwash comes from Colombia (more than 14000 km away), my hard disk drives,
telephone and many of my electronic items from China, Korea, Taiwan and
Indonesia. We are living in profligate times!
How did we get from the early 1950s to here? How did we become
so blasé about generating vast piles of rubbish?
Here are a few descriptions of the burgeoning solid waste
problem from sites around the world 12 :
The British scene:
There are two different types of waste in landfills, Municipal
Solid Waste (MSW) and Industrial Waste. MSW is basically the contents of your
dustbin and Industrial Waste is produced by industry.
About 18,000,000 tonnes of MSW is produced each year in the
nation's homes and businesses. About 78,000,000 tonnes is Industrial Waste.
These figures are only estimates, because only about 40% of waste is weighed
before disposal. Today 88% of MSW is buried in the 4,000 licensed landfills up
and down the UK
(If we combine the municipal and industrial waste totals in
determining the per capita garbage footprint of people in Great Britain 13 , this equates to 1.5
tonnes of garbage per year for every man, woman and child in Great Britain. (1
metric tonne =.984 imperial or long ton) (Problems
Associated with Landfills))
The scene in the USA:
EPA defines solid waste as any garbage or refuse, sludge from a
wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution
control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid,
semi-solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial,
mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities.
Nearly everything we do leaves behind some kind of waste. In
fact, in 2006, U.S. residents, businesses, and institutions produced more than
251 million tons of municipal solid waste, which is approximately 4.6 pounds of
waste per person per day. In addition, American industrial facilities generate
and dispose of approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste each
[Combining the municipal and industrial waste totals to
determine the per capita garbage footprint of people in the USA, this equates to
25 tons of garbage per year for every man, woman and child in the United
Choose from the solid waste types below to learn more:
- Municipal solid
waste is commonly known as trash or garbage.
waste is made up of a wide variety of non-hazardous materials that result
from the production of goods and products.
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
And China 14 :
As more Chinese ride the nation's economic boom, a torrent of
garbage is one result. Cities are bursting at the seams, and their officials
struggle to cope.
The amount of paper, plastic and other garbage has more than
tripled in two decades to about 300 million tons a year, according to Nie
Yongfeng, a waste management expert at Beijing's Tsinghua University.
‘No place to put it all’
still way ahead of China in garbage; a population less than a quarter the size
of China's 1.3 billion generated 254 million tons of garbage in 2007, a third of
which is recycled or composted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection
But for China, the problem represents a rapid turnabout from a
generation ago, when families, then largely rural and poor, used and reused
"Trash was never complicated before, because we didn't have
supermarkets, we didn't have fancy packaging and endless things to buy," said
Nie. "Now suddenly, the government is panicking about the mountains of garbage
piling up with no place to put it all."
In Zhanglidong, villagers engage in shouting matches with drivers
and sometimes try to bodily block their garbage trucks coming from Zhengzhou, 20
"Zhengzhou is spotless because their trash is dumped into our
village," says Li Qiaohong, who blames it for her 5-year-old son's eczema.
(As Economy Grows, so does China's trash, Associated Press,
The scene in the Philippines 15 :
Our streets are lined with garbage, our waters flooded, and our
creeks clogged with trash, even our mountains are junk – all these are
reflections of the need to heed to the serious call for waste management – it is
time for each and every one of us to stop living dirty.
And why? The indiscriminate throwing of garbage contaminates our
waters, with clogged drains open for insect breeding which brings about diseases
like cholera and dengue, targeting most especially, our children. Floods have
become a common sight during rainy seasons. Backyard burning, or simply, burning
of garbage, releases toxic air pollutants, which leads to respiratory diseases
like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, even death. To be direct, dirty living
The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), chaired
by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has identified
three key trends in the local garbage situation: 1) increase in sheer volume of
generated wastes; 2) change in the quality and make-up of waste generated; and
3) waste handling methods.
Everyday, the country has a per capita waste generation of 0.3 to
0.7 kilograms of garbage. In 2003*, we have generated 27,397 tons of garbage
daily, a step backwards compared to the 19,700 tons of garbage we have generated
daily in 2000 (*based on the study conducted by the NSWMC-Secretariat and the
Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Project of the Asian Development Bank in
2003). That is tantamount to ten million tons of garbage generated in 2003.
Of the ten million tons of generated garbage in 2003, 2.5 million
came from Metro Manila. This is a strong evidence of the forecast which
indicated that by 2010, in comparison to the 2000 data, waste generation shall
have increased by 47%.
(Managing Solid Waste in the Philippines January 23, 2007)
LUPANG PANGAKO, PAYATAS, QUEZON CITY — Orlando Wong lives in the
shadow of the huge dumpsite here, and there are times that he and his family
can’t eat because of the stink of the place. But Wong, 42, is surprisingly
optimistic about his future and that of the country. “The Philippines,” he says,
“is going to walk the path of growth and development.”
(Romel Lalata and Cecile C.A. Balgos April 27th, 2004)
Everywhere, human beings are generating more and more waste. We
might talk about recycling. We might even indulge in a limited attempt at it (I
have a special roadside bin provided by the local council in which various kinds
of 'recyclable' materials are placed), but the amount of waste dumped into
landfills grows each year.
No matter how much recycling we indulge in, the simple fact is
that corporations extracting resources to feed the industries we demand, are
entering a boom period 16 . The future, for them, is record profits
and rapid expansion! Recycling is barely a blip on their rose-tinted
We could continue examining descriptions of the solid waste
difficulties being experienced around the world, but we all understand the
- Capitalism requires us to continue to consume at an
ever-expanding rate 17 .
- If we don't:
- our economies will falter,
- people will lose their jobs,
- our futures will be bleak.
- If we do:
- our economies will be 'healthy'
- we will have full employment,
- and our futures …
And, Garbage is the least of our problems!
In the early 21st century pastoral, agricultural and
horticultural regions of the world are facing serious agricultural chemical
pollution, water-logging, salinity, over-grazing, deforestation, land erosion,
desertification, increasingly erratic climatic conditions, …
In future posts we will explore a few of these and other
problems created by capitalism's need to ensure snowballing material consumption
Originator of Gaia theory, inventor of the electron capture detector (1957) (which made possible the
detection of CFCs and other atmospheric nano-pollutants) and of the microwave
As an Earth Institute article explains:
Recent extreme weather events as far as Australia and Africa are
being fuelled by a climate phenomenon known as La Niña—or “the girl” in Spanish.
La Niña has also played a minor role in the recent cold weather in the Northeast
The term La Niña refers to a period of cooler-than-average
sea-surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean that occurs as part of
natural climate variability. This situation is roughly the opposite of what
happens during El Niño (“the boy”) events, when surface waters in this region
are warmer than normal. Because the Pacific is the largest ocean on the planet,
any significant changes in average conditions there can have consequences for
temperature, rainfall and vegetation in distant places.…
Climate scientists have found La Niña's fingerprints on a number
of extreme weather events such as the devastating flood that occurred in
Pakistan in 2010, as well as flooding in West Africa, South Africa and most
recently in Queensland, Australia, where an area equal to the combined size of
France and Germany was underwater. La Niña is also to blame for Cyclone Yasi,
one of the strongest to hit Australia, which came ashore on Feb. 2.
(Climate Phenomenon La
Niña to Blame for Global Extreme Weather Events, The Earth
Institute, Columbia University, Feb 7, 2011)
3 See Paul Krugman (New York Times,
February 6, 2011) Droughts, Floods and Food for a discussion of the worldwide
consequences of these events.
A word of caution on Krugman's position: Krugman believes in the virtues of free trade and globalization, however, he wants to mitigate the effects of the consequences. So, he writes as a person concerned for mitigating effects, while still supporting the fundamental causative policies. Rather like a Climate Change Denier who, while believing that climate change isn't happening, sees the consequences and wants to mitigate their impacts in people's lives.
Here is a list of the first sixteen sites I identified dealing with
environmental issues, not in any order of excellence. There are many others as
good or better (many of them listed in the sites below):
A List of excellent, informative sites
Of course, there are some sites I find difficult
to understand, and some which seem deliberately designed to mislead and
misinform. See Articgate: Now THAT's cherrypicking for an example of some of
the nonsense that masquerades as serious commentary on the internet.
(I am not denigrating internet commentary! There
is plenty of nonsense published and peddled on radio and television and in both
the academic and general hard-copy press. Unfortunately, despite the assertion
in the Book of Proverbs that 'a chattering fool comes to ruin'
(Proverbs 10:8), they very often prosper through their appeal to
likeminded, often ideologically driven, souls.)
Every day sees new studies, books and articles warning the world that the
future will be catastrophic for humanity if we continue on the present course.
See the US National Science
Foundation press releases 11-039 and 10-191 for measured assessments of the
possibility of natural disaster on a global scale within our lifetimes:
Also (a few which appeared as I was writing this),
James Lovelock, asked whether humanity will
survive global warming, put it like this:
I'm an optimistic pessimist. I think it's wrong to assume we'll
survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we
could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is
we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it.
Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per
cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be
a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were
bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left [**]. It's happening again.
I don't think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to
handle what's coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing's been done
except endless talk and meetings.
I don't think we can react fast enough or are clever enough to
handle what's coming up
(Gaia Vince (2009) New Scientist, issue 2692 page 30-31 One Last Chance to Save Mankind)
[** see Population Bottleneck for more on this.]
Yet, despite all the warnings, we continue to
Unfortunately, having lived through the last half
of the 20th century, I am compelled, despite my inherent and stubborn
optimism, to concur with James Lovelock, 'Virtually nothing's been done except
endless talk and meetings. I don't think we can react fast enough or are clever
enough to handle what's coming up'.
6 Perhaps that 'Unseen Hand' so beloved by
economists (see 'Led by an Invisible Hand' in History and Nature of Capitalism for the origin of this
belief) – or a magical bridge from the future like that which materialised in
one of the movies in the Back to the Future series.
Here's a 'business as usual' assessment of the
Fred Palmer, senior vice president of government
relations for Peabody Energy (the [self-proclaimed] world's largest
private-sector coal company) put the future of world energy procurement starkly
in his assessment of the importance of coal production and use:
Palmer dismissed the idea that the world might ever experience
"peak coal" – the point at which maximum global coal production rate is reached.
"The Dakotas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas all have large, large
amounts of lignite [brown coal]," he said. "Or in western China and Mongolia you
have lower-ranked coals. So I don't think there's a peak coal problem.
I think Xinjiang province in the west of China, where they say
there's a trillion tonnes of resources, will be the new Middle East. Anyone who
has the notion that we're going to move away from fossil fuels just isn't paying
(China's coal reserves 'will make it new Middle East', says energy
chief, Leo Hickman, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 March 2011 11.39 GMT)
As Palmer of Peabody Energy and many
others have been telling us for the past 30 years or more, there is no need to
be concerned. They are now focused on producing a "low-carbon coal future".
Ever since I've got here in 2001, under our CEO Greg Boyce,
we've always said that we need to drive technology for continual emissions
improvements leading to near-zero emissions and that includes carbon. So the
worldwide concern over carbon, given the large use of coal, and the inevitable
growth of coal - and the numbers are staggering - leaves us very anxious to be a
key player in driving technology to develop a carbon answer and meet those
concerns, even when we use more coal.
Our approach is consistent with what the federal government is
doing at the Department of Energy and their research programmes and also [what's
happening in] China. People don't understand that China in 10 years will have an
absolute state-of-the-art coal-based electric generating system that's cleaner
and more efficient than any other country on earth, including the US. China,
together with the US, is the leading testbed for carbon technology, for example,
for retrofitting or building new plants going forward.
Peabody, with Chinese partners, is involved in GreenGen which is
an integrated gasification, combined cycle project in Tianjin, China, that will
be the first zero-emissions coal plant, which will use the CO2 stream for
enhanced oil recovery. So China and the US are both aggressively pursuing
low-carbon coal technologies even as the world consumes more coal every day and
will continue for as far out as you can see.
(Fred Palmer interview: 'We're 100% coal. More coal.
Everywhere' Guardian.co.uk/Environment/Blog 8th March
We will develop the necessary technologies to
ensure a rose-tinted future for humanity. Just be patient – they'll come! And
they really will be 'clean' and 'green'.
However, as Richard Heinberg has explained:
Coal is the most polluting of the fossil fuels, and if we burn
more of it there is little hope of averting catastrophic climate change.
But is carbon capture and storage (CCS) a solution? The
technology exists only in the sense that its components have been demonstrated
on a small scale. Deploying it broadly would require the development of an
infrastructure that would require trillions of dollars of investment and decades
According to Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, in a
recent letter to Nature, we would need to handle a volume of CO2 twice as large
as the world’s crude oil flows just to sequester one quarter of carbon dioxide
emitted in 2005 by large stationary sources.
CCS is essentially a “delay and fail” strategy by the coal
industry. By selling the idea of “clean coal,” the industry delays an energy
transition away from fossil fuels, while setting itself up for an eventual
failure of the entire CCS project. By the time that the failure is clear and
obvious, there will be no alternative: the coal plants will have been built, the
money invested. We’ll burn more coal, and to hell with the climate.
Carbon Institute's Energy Bulletin Sep 30 2008)
But wait, good news has just appeared (3rd March 2011) in the form of an article reporting
the results of research into the impact of climate change on human populations.
It appears that the Invisible Hand really is on the side of the major polluters!
Caption: Local vulnerability of
human populations to climate change based on ecological and demographic models.
The regions in red are expected to be most negatively impacted by climate
change. White regions correspond to human density values of zero in the global
Jason Samson, a PhD candidate in McGill
University's Department of Natural Resource Sciences, and fellow researchers
Strongly negative impacts of climate change are predicted in
Central America, central South America, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia
and much of Africa. Importantly, the regions of greatest vulnerability are
generally distant from the high-latitude regions where the magnitude of climate
change will be greatest.
Furthermore, populations contributing the most to greenhouse gas
emissions on a per capita basis are unlikely to experience the worst impacts of
climate change, satisfying the conditions for a moral hazard in climate change
(Samson et al Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts
of climate change on human populations Global Ecology and Biogeography
published online: 17 FEB 2011)
So there really is no reason for alarm!!
7 Electoral expediency seems to trump all
else for our politicians!
8 See Joseph Huff-Hannon and Andy Bichlbaum
(guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 February 2011), How big business subverts democracy for ways in which major
corporations and their lobbyists attempt to mould and manipulate public opinion.
Surely, Chris Mooney can't be right:
A decision to defund the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change], rather than attack or criticize it, doesn’t bespeak a strategy
of doubt-mongering. It signals extreme certainty that one is right, that we
don’t even need to consider (skeptically or otherwise) any more new results from
climate scientists ….
The logic now appears to be: "There was this thing
called the IPCC whose findings were dubious and repeatedly called into question.
Then came “Climategate,” which validated our suspicions, proving that the IPCC
(and all the science it produced) was utterly corrupt. Thus, there is nothing to
global warming but a cesspool of politicized science, and it can all be
dismissed. No need even to spend taxpayer dollars studying it any
(The Denialists Progress: From Doubt-Mongering to Certainty,
DESMOGLBLOG.COM, 21 February 2011)
Daniel Litvin (1998) has given a graphic description of some of the
consequences of capitalist 'development' for the poor of the world:
“THE centralisation of population in great cities exercises of
itself an unfavourable influence,” wrote Friedrich Engels in 1844. “All putrefying vegetable and animal
substances give off gases decidedly injurious to health, and if these gases have
no free way of escape, they inevitably poison the atmosphere … [The poor] are
obliged to throw all offal and garbage, all dirty water, often all disgusting
drainage and excrement into the streets, being without other means of disposing
of them; they are thus compelled to infect the region of their own dwelling.”
Much of Engels’s writing seems irrelevant today, but his
description of working-class life in 19th-century London paints an uncannily
accurate picture of slum life in developing countries at the end of the 20th
In the Klong Toey district of Bangkok, the stench from the
rotting rubbish and fetid water that collect between the shacks is overpowering.
In the north of Mexico city, near Santa Fe, hovels cling to the
sides of a steep valley which most days is choked with smog, and streams of
untreated sewage run down to the river below.
In the Moroccan town of Marrakesh, the smell of rotting cattle
flesh surrounds tanneries for miles around.
Conventional wisdom has it that concern for the environment is a
luxury only the rich world can afford; that only people whose basic needs for
food and shelter have been met (as well as, perhaps, some not-so-basic ones for
things like cars and televisions) can start worrying about the health of the
That is why, when rich-world environmentalists campaign against
pollution in poor countries, they are often accused of naivety. Such countries,
the critics say, have more pressing concerns, such as getting their people out
But the environmental problems that developing countries should
worry about are different from those that western pundits have fashionable
arguments over. They are not about potential problems in the next century, but
about indisputable harm being caused today by, above all, contaminated water and
(Daniel Litvin (1998) Development and the
Environment: Dirt Poor )
Perhaps less obvious, but no less environmentally
problematic, are the consequences of the 'waste' disposal practices of the
economically advantaged of the world.
Type 'resources boom' into your internet search engine to get a deluge of
optimistic forecasting on exploitation of resources over the next 20 years. For
a gleeful description of the coming boom times see Adrian Day in The
…what most investors have not quite grasped is the sheer
enormity of these drivers. Sometimes with enormous trends or developments, it
can take a while for most people to catch on, and our understanding tends to lag
the reality; how many, for example, 15 years ago thought email would become so
dominant a means of communications? Prices of most resources will go higher and
for longer than most investors currently imagine.
(Adrian Day 11/15/2010 The Resources Boom: It's Only Beginning)
The activities of the American Petroleum
Institute, aimed at limiting regulation of resource exploitation, are
similar to those of major resource corporations and organisations around the
world. Here's a Bloomberg report on its campaign to limit industry
The American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas
industry trade group, will start backing political candidates this year as the
U.S. considers repealing $46 billion in subsidies and imposing pollution rules.
The group, whose members include Exxon Mobil Corp.
and Chevron Corp., would
make donations separately from industry executives and employees, who gave $27.6
million mostly to Republican candidates for Congress last year, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. API has paid for advertising on
policy issues and to lobby on legislation.
“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,” said Martin
Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, in an interview.
“At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy
Former Republican and Democratic aides in Congress and from the
White House lobby for the group. They include David Castagnetti, an ex-chief of
staff to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Bruce Mehlman, a
Commerce Department official under George W. Bush.
(Jim Snyder, Oil Group Starts Political Giving as Congress Weighs Repeal of Tax
Breaks, Bloomberg, Feb 24, 2011)
See Garbage being brought by dump trucks to be dropped off at
Vancouver's Delta BC landfill for a YouTube video of 'Open Day' at a
Although many people would dispute the inclusion of industrial waste in
the per capita footprint, such a presumption is a consequence of an artificial
separation of 'the economy' from 'daily life' (see The Economy: a New Environment for the distillation of 'The
Economy' as a separate environment in Western thought and practice).
See World Bank (2005) Working Paper 9, Waste Management in China for an exploration of China's
burgeoning waste disposal problems:
No country has ever experienced as large or as fast an increase
in solid waste quantities that China is now facing.
In 2004 China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest
waste generator, and by 2030 China’s annual solid waste quantities will increase
by another 150% - growing from about 190,000,000 tons in 2004 to over
480,000,000 tons in 2030.
The social, financial, and environmental impacts of this growing
waste stream are significant.
…even with aggressive waste diversion activities China’s future
waste disposal needs are enormous. For example China’s cities will need to
develop an additional 1400 landfills over the next 20 years.
See also: Garbage and recycling in China for a range of information on
Chinese approaches to the problem of waste.
15 See Solid Waste Management in Manila for discussion of the crisis
in the Philippines
16 See this Wikiprogress Assessment: Resource extraction and consumption:
The lack of management of natural resources leads not only to
environmental problems such as land degradation, soil erosion and pollution, but
it can also create serious social and economic tensions. An example of this is
known as the "resource curse" where countries rich in natural resources have
seen conflict, corruption and persisting high levels of poverty due to the
scramble for the country's wealth. Of the 3.5 billion people who live in
countries rich in oil, gas and minerals, many of them live in poverty due to
poor governance and the gains not being invested in local people and
See Global resource use - Worldwide Patterns of Resource
Extraction, prepared for the World Resources Forum (Davos, Switzerland,
2011) for an assessment of the state of worldwide resource extraction in 2011:
Economic and thus human development have always been closely
linked to the control and production of materials. Due to continued growth of
the global economy, the demand for natural resources, such as fossil fuels,
metals and minerals, and biomass from agriculture (crops), forestry, fishery,
etc, provided by Planet Earth is rapidly increasing, and they are being
exploited without metres and bounds, resulting in serious environmental damages
through the extraction process itself, but also due to the ever longer transport
distances between extraction, processing and final consumption.
For a range of videos on resource extraction and
consumption, see this Google selection.
17 Keep an eye out for the results of the 26th
International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management being
hosted by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
March 27-30 2011. It should result in a number of interesting papers on the
problems of waste management around the world.
See What Drives Western People to Commoditise their World? for a
discussion of some of the drivers of consumption (and its corollary,
'production') in capitalist communities. Of course, the enormous power of modern
product and service advertising, alone, will result in constantly escalating