Examining population growth as an upstream cause of ecological degradation (interview with Terry Spahr of Earth Overshoot)
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kamea Chayne, a podcast and multimedia journal illuminating the path towards environmental regeneration, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance for all. This preview has been edited for clarity. Subscribe to Green Dreamer Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and updated on our latest episodes.
Terry Spahr (@terryspahrrocks) is a documentary filmmaker (8 Billion Angels), an environmental activist, and the Executive Director of Earth Overshoot (@earthovershoot), a nonprofit working to make ecological limits central to all personal and public decision-making through targeted education and advocacy.
On this podcast episode, Terry sheds light on what a truly sustainable lifestyle with seven billion people on earth should really look like; why population growth has been the elephant in the room that needs to be discussed more openly as a solution to lessening our environmental impact; how we can work with the nuance that people in "developing countries" have less of an ecological footprint compared to those living in "developed countries"; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Terry and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kamea Chayne.
On what sustainable living for 7 billion people really looks like:
"Our global GDP is currently about $85 trillion annually. Scientists and economists agree that we must reduce that activity by half to be sustainable, which would be a $42 - $43 trillion dollar economy.
If you divide that by the number of people in the world, which is about 7.7 billion people, we each need to live off of roughly $5,500 per year—that's the equivalent of living in a small one room home with minimal plumbing and electricity for just a few small appliances like a refrigerator and a small stove.
That annual income would mean foregoing central heat, air conditioning, and hot water. It would mean basically having three sets of clothes and no washer or dryer, eating only a plant-based local diet, and never driving in a car or flying in an airplane.
That's the reality of a sustainable lifestyle for 7.7 billion people if we're all going to live equitably."
On the ideal population size for people to be able to maintain the average modern “European lifestyle”:
“For 7.7 billion people to live sustainably, it requires a pretty minimalist lifestyle.
No one who lives above that level wants to go there and anybody who's below that level wants to live above it.
David Pimentel, a professor from Cornell University, and his collaborators did a study on what the ideal population size would be that could allow people to live essentially a “European lifestyle”—a lifestyle in which people could live with high human development indicators, but wouldn't have a high level of resource consumption like the United States.
Their figure was about 1.5 to 2 billion people."
Final words of wisdom:
"If you care more about the environment than political correctness, then we have to come together as cheerleaders for a better, safer, less crowded, and more sustainable world."
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