If the entire world lived like the citizens of the United States of America, it would require nearly five earths, as cited by Patrick James of Co.EXIST. Despite this staggering number, we are trying to aid others in moving up to our style of life. Development projects span across Northern Africa, giving the false promise that they can one day live lives like Americans if we can fix the underdevelopment caused by old European customs like the slave trade, as pointed to and addressed in more detail by Walter Rodney in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.”
The problem with this is not that other societies of the world will finally be given the chance of a developed life they deserve, but that the developed life and idea we are selling is nothing more than a snake oil salesman bidding his time before his first customers discover that what he sells doesn’t even come close to delivering.
In order to fix this there are several things U.S. citizens have to take responsibility for, and the first one is their overall lifestyle. This is primarily what the Global Footprint Network calls an “ecological footprint”, or, in other words, how much impact we are having on the Earth as one nation. Unsurprisingly, the U.S.’s largest increasing factor on their ecological footprint is carbon emissions. While it is extremely difficult to track down just how much less of a lifestyle Americans would need in regards to living space, food consumed, or productions, we can point to the fact that the current way we use fossil fuels are unsustainable from the Global Footprint Network’s research. This means more focus on actual renewable energy resources, instead of debating whether or not to frack in states that have untapped resources like Alaska. This touches on the next issue and the fact that we have not been very good at tracking our current use of and expense of resources.
When a business hopes to stay afloat, measure its worth and keep its customers happy, it has to have a balance sheet—where a business records all of its expenses, like how much it costs to make a cheeseburger and matches it up with its assets, such as how much it charged for said cheeseburger after making it. If it cost the business 2 dollars to make the cheeseburger and they sold it for 3 dollars, they are successful, having a profit of 1 dollar.
While this balance sheet is great in monitoring the burger flipper’s market, it does not tell us how many times we can make that cheeseburger before running out of all the resources needed to make it. Ford knows how many new Mustangs it can produce while staying within budget, but it does not know how many Mustangs we can manufacture before we run out of access to any and all of the world’s current steel. Considering large companies like this, and countries like the U.S., will be a part of the United Nations Millennial Development Goals, such as ending poverty. It makes sense that we should keep track not only of what people need, but how many of those items we could actually create, ceteris paribus.