Saturday, December 20, 2014

Do we have enough TVs?

The western world may have maxed out on consumer goods, says a U.N. leader in advance of the world sustainability summit..

Do we have enough TVs?

Has the western world maxed out on TVs, cars and other stuff of the modern, consumer-oriented lifestyle?

Maybe.

In advance of the worldwide sustainability Rio+20 summit, the head of the United Nations Development Programme told Agence France-Presse, a global news agency based in France, that we've bought enough.

Helen Clark, who also is the former New Zealand prime minister, said that developed countries need to look at how they can sustain their living standards with a much smaller environmental footprint.

"So the issue is how to get human development that will see it continue to rise for the world's poorest people and people in developing countries," she told AFP. "Because frankly human development in the West -- we don't need more cars, more TVs, more whatever.

"Our needs are by and large satisfied, although the recession has put a lot of strains on that."

That statement will no doubt fuel a hefty backlash. But she does, of course, have a point. Just how much more do we need? And what toll on the environment are we willing to accept to get it?

Or maye it's that while we have enough TVs and cars, we don't have enough of the right kind.

Scrap all those gas hogs and replace them with vehicles that get much better mileage. That shouldn't cripple the economy. 

Likewise, TVs and their power-hungry set-top boxes that stay on all the time may have made advances in the area of energy consumption, but I'm sure improvements can be made.

The basic inequality of nations is at the root of much of the debate.  What is the responsibility of the U.S., which has already polluted much and gained much prosperity? How do you balance that with a poor country that wants to advance its economy and raise the standard of living for its citizens, but will have to do so with constraints related to sustainability.

Hopefully, the summit of world leaders will find some answers.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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