The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, has a membership roster that includes the wealthiest, most prosperous and, generally whitest, nations on the planet.
If there's stuff on the planet we want, everything from energy to critical resources, we get our fill because we're willing to pay what others simply cannot. That's a reality fraught with problems for us, the rich countries. We are now dependent on the continuation of a state of affairs that is utterly unsustainable, emphasis on the word "dependent."
University College London professor, Henrietta Moore, says we have to stop thinking of ourselves as in a different league from the have-nots.
It's difficult to think of prosperity as a vulnerability as much as a blessing. Yet professor Moore is right. The prosperous nations use the lion's share of the world's resources and we're utterly dependent on consuming resources at a rate vastly beyond what the Earth can provide. Our dependency is really an addiction and we have no stomach for changing our ways.
In truth, many of the world’s most “prosperous” countries are its least sustainable. Since the 70s, humanity has been in “ecological overshoot”, with annual demand on resources exceeding what the Earth can regenerate each year. Today, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use. This applies to the vast majority of today’s wealthy countries. Even nations like Norway, with an apparent ecological surplus thanks to widespread use of renewables at home, mask their true carbon footprint by exporting fossil fuels to be burned elsewhere – in so doing, helping to enhance their own prosperity further.
The stark warnings in a recent report by the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change about the pressing need for a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 underscores how urgently we need to develop new ways of measuring prosperity that take a much bigger account of our global responsibilities. The comforting story of a march towards “prosperity” headed by beneficiaries of inequality in the global north is an illusion our planet simply cannot afford any longer.
Our prime minister is sitting down with our premiers to discuss how Canada can maximize our perpetual, exponential growth. One thing that won't be on their agenda is what this means in terms of our "global responsibilities."