all evidence to the contrary

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart was talking to Bob Woodruff about a TV show called Earth 2100, which apparently had a gloomy message about the future.  During this chat, Stewart, talking about reversing ominous trends, said that consumption always increases, and scenarios that assumed a reduction in use of resources weren’t realistic.  This statement went unchallenged, and was probably accepted as received wisdom by the audience.  But it’s not based on evidence.  For example, in developed countries, population growth and per-capita energy use and water use are either stabilizing or declining.  For sure, the developing world is increasing its share of consumption, but presumably one of the future trends is that developing countries become “developed” at some point.  Anyway, it seems off the mark to talk about the problem as one of consumption.  It’s really more of a waste problem – there are huge opportunities to reduce what we extract through more efficient systems, re-use, and conservation without severely reducing quality of life or access to products.

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