Expert says problem isn’t just population, it’s lifestyle
Our most pressing environmental challenge is not how many people the planet can support, but rather how many cellphone-toting, satellite-TV-watching, gas-guzzler driving members of the middle class it can bear.
That was the message from Sir David King, former science adviser to the British government, chancellor of the University of Liverpool, and director of research in physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge, who spoke at Harvard’s Science Center on April 17.
While global population growth has been important over the last century, as the number of humans climbed from 1.5 billion in 1900 to some 7 billion today, average female fertility has declined to the replacement value of 2.1 births, King said. While a significant increase of some 2 billion people is still expected as today’s children reach childbearing age, lifestyle changes are the greater challenge, he said.
The global middle class — defined as those who spend between $10 and $100 per day — has climbed rapidly, reaching 1 billion in 2000 and doubling to 2 billion just recently. The middle class is expected to reach 4.8 billion by 2050, raising the question of whether the planet has the resources to deliver the lifestyle people will expect.
“Improving Human Well-Being on a Resource-Limited Planet: Can We Do It?” was sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment and was part of its “Future of Energy” lecture series. King was introduced by the center’s director, Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology and a professor of environmental science and engineering.
There are already signs the growing middle class is prompting increased competition for resources in global markets for oil, food, and minerals, King said. Fresh water sources are strained, including both surface water and aquifers. Some water-poor nations have turned to desalinating seawater, an energy-intensive process, with the energy often provided by coal.
King pointed to continued high commodity prices during the global economic downturn as evidence that global capacity is being strained. During the Great Depression, commodity prices collapsed as economic activity in industrialized nations declined; cheap commodity prices then helped fuel the economic recovery, King said.
In the most recent recession, commodity prices have stayed high, likely as a result of increased demand from the growing global middle class, largely in Asia and the Pacific, but increasingly in Africa as well, he said.
Oil prices’ response to supply and demand appears to have changed since 2005, King said. Prices spiked to $140 a barrel and have remained high despite the economic downturn, another sign of increased global demand. High oil prices have hurt the economies of Italy and Greece, he said, and are threatening Britain as its North Sea oil production declines.
The direct cost of imported oil in the United States, he said, is $1 trillion a year, but there are indirect costs — like the trillions spent on the Iraq War — that can be attributed to the need to maintain oil supplies.
“The impact of oil is massive,” King said. “The question is whether the economies of the world can operate at this price, $100 a barrel.”
The Latest Bing News on:
Impact of the middle class
- Seven Media wins PR Week Middle East agency of the yearon May 26, 2022 at 3:13 am
Seven Media has won the PR Week Middle East Agency of the Year at the global awards held at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel – with thousands of media’s biggest names in attendance. Founded and ...
- Middle-of-the-road Texans lost big in Tuesday runoffon May 26, 2022 at 12:00 am
If Tuesday’s runoffs told us anything, it’s that the political middle of the Republican and Democratic parties in Texas is an endangered species. That is ...
- Too many texts: Cellphone experiment shows impact on learningon May 25, 2022 at 5:22 pm
Cellphones are a distraction in school. That well-researched fact surprises no one. What may be a surprise is to what extent they impact concentration.
- EU sanctions should not hurt the middle class, warns Belgian PM Alexander De Crooon May 25, 2022 at 10:23 am
De Croo told Euronews it's still 'too early' to talk about raising EU common debt to finance Ukraine's reconstruction. #EuropeNews ...
- Vestar’s Nikhil Bhat: Information services are ‘in the middle innings of a shift’on May 25, 2022 at 4:10 am
We are looking to invest in vertical information services companies that use technology to aggregate, integrate and analyze mission-critical data sources to drive high-impact insights for their ...
- Tom Allen 1-on-1: Indiana's Highest-Ranked Recruiting Class Will Have Immediate Impacton May 24, 2022 at 2:01 pm
Indiana football coach Tom Allen sat down with HoosiersNow.com for an extensive 30-minute interview. In the first part of our series from Allen's interview, we discuss the role to be played by the ...
- Big brands fret over China as middle-class spurns luxuryon May 20, 2022 at 5:57 am
Chloe Kou, a 28-year old beauty brand marketing manager from Shanghai, won't be buying her usual "one or two" high-end handbags this year. Instead, she plans to save not spend, and that is a problem ...
- What The Wealthy Know About Money That Those In The Middle Class Don’ton May 20, 2022 at 4:00 am
You can have a millionaire’s paycheck and still be living with a middle-class mindset. It all depends on the order in which you spend. Let me explain.
- DU at 100: Ramjas College took a university from the middle-class to the masseson May 2, 2022 at 5:54 am
Celebrating a hundred years of Delhi University, a special series by HT commemorates the institution, its academics, students, schools, colleges, canteens, culture and the impact it has had on ...
- Biden's new minimum billionaire tax will hit middle class: Americans for Tax Reform presidenton March 28, 2022 at 9:11 am
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist squashed President Biden's claim that his new minimum billionaire tax will only impact the rich, arguing that it will also hit the middle class.
The Latest Google Headlines on:
Impact of the middle class
The Latest Bing News on:
Growing middle class
- Class participation: School board sees growing interest in policy making from parents, community memberson May 26, 2022 at 4:30 am
There was a time when school board meetings had a reputation for being mundane, sometimes tedious sessions that attracted fairly little attention and seldom drew a crowd. Members might congratulate ...
- The Green Experiment Disaster: High Gas Prices And Growing Dependence On Russia, Chinaon May 25, 2022 at 1:08 pm
The results have been high gas prices, which significantly hurt the budgets of middle-class families and are particularly difficult for the poor.
- $53,636.5 Million France Luxury Travel Market to Grow at 20.4% CAGR through 2021 to 2030on May 25, 2022 at 3:41 am
During the forecast period, the luxury travel market is projected to be the fastest growing segment of the travel industry worldwide. The key ...
- MarketerHire Accelerates International Expansion to Meet Growing Marketing Needs of Brands and Agencies Across Europe, Middle East and Africaon May 25, 2022 at 3:02 am
MarketerHire, the leading talent marketplace and on-demand hiring platform connecting vetted marketing experts with startup companies, leading brands and agencies, today announced its expansion into ...
- America's shrinking middle class is 'barely keeping up'on May 24, 2022 at 6:27 am
Decade by decade, America's middle class has been shrinking over the past 50 years as rising inequality pushes more Americans out of the middle and into the upper and lower income brackets.
- Massachusetts’ failure to forestall growing segregationon May 23, 2022 at 12:14 am
The state’s failure to provide leadership for the past two decades has left Massachusetts schools highly segregated by race, ethnicity, and income.
- An Eau Claire middle school is using gardening to help students learn and growon May 21, 2022 at 6:07 pm
A garden at a middle school in Eau Claire is hoping to grow more than just plants. It’s aiming to create a space for students to learn and sprout. Eau Claire’s Northstar Middle School is laying down ...
- America’s definition of ‘middle class’ hasn’t changed, even amid a very different economic realityon May 19, 2022 at 3:02 am
Americans are definitely feeling the effects of inflation, but so far, it's not shifting their views of social class.
- State election in North Rhine-Westphalia reveals growing class divisions in Germanyon May 16, 2022 at 2:40 pm
The working class stayed at home because workers did not see themselves represented by any of the establishment parties; for their part, the affluent urban middle classes turned to the Greens, the ...
- Examples of 'middle class' in a sentenceon May 15, 2022 at 5:54 pm
These examples have been automatically selected and may contain sensitive content that does not reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company HarperCollins. Those from the middle ...