IDSA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 12: Sustainable Development Goals, Global Hectare, Overconsumption
DepartmentInternational Development Studies
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Forget “Developing” Poor Countries, Its time to “De-Develop Rich Countries
By: J. Hickel
-As the UN’s new sustainable development goals are launched in New York, there’s little to
celebrate about the business-as-usual approach
-Recent research found 70% of people in middle- and high-income countries believe
overconsumption is putting our planet and society at risk
-this week, heads of state are gathering in New York to sign the UN’s new sustainable
development goals (SDGs). The main objective is to eradicate poverty by 2030.
-Given all the fanfare, one might think the SDGs are about to offer a fresh plan for how to
save the world, but beneath all the hype, it’s business as usual
-The main strategy for eradicating poverty is the same: growth.
-“It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest people to earn $1.25 a day”—Hickel
-Growth has been the main object of development for the past 70 years, despite the fact
that it’s not working
-Since 1980, the global economy has grown by 380%, but the number of people living in
poverty on less than $5 (£3.20) a day has increased by more than 1.1 billion. That’s 17
times the population of Britain. So much for the trickle-down effect.
-Orthodox economists insist that all we need is yet more growth
-More progressive types tell us that we need to shift some of the yields of growth from the
richer segments of the population to the poorer ones, evening things out a bit
-Neither approach is adequate. Why? Because even at current levels of average global
consumption, we’re overshooting our planet’s bio-capacity by more than 50% each year
-In other words, growth isn’t an option any more – we’ve already grown too much
-Scientists are now telling us that we’re blowing past planetary boundaries at breakneck
-And the hard truth is that this global crisis is due almost entirely to overconsumption in
-Instead of pushing poor countries to 'catch up' with rich ones, we should be getting rich
countries to 'catch down’
-Right now, our planet only has enough resources for each of us to consume 1.8 “global
hectares” annually – a standardized unit that measures resource use and waste
-This figure is roughly what the average person in Ghana or Guatemala consumes
-By contrast, people in the US and Canada consume about 8 hectares per person, while
Europeans consume 4.7 hectares – many times their fair share.
What does this mean for our theory of development?
-Economist Peter Edward argues that instead of pushing poorer countries to “catch up” with
rich ones, we should be thinking of ways to get rich countries to “catch down” to more
appropriate levels of development
-We should look at societies where people live long and happy lives at relatively low levels
of income and consumption not as basket cases that need to be developed towards western
models, but as exemplars of efficient living
'Those sitting on wealth and power aren't going to stand aside and do the right thing'
-How much do we really need to live long and happy lives? In the US, life expectancy is 79
years and GDP per capita is $53,000
-But many countries have achieved similar life expectancy with a mere fraction of this
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