Wasted World: How Our Consumption Challenges the Planet

Wasted World: How Our Consumption Challenges the Planet

Rob Hengeveld

Language: English

Pages: 360

ISBN: 0226326993

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


All systems produce waste as part of a cycle—bacteria, humans, combustion engines, even one as large and complex as a city. To some extent, this waste can be absorbed, processed, or recycled—though never completely. In Wasted World, Rob Hengeveld reveals how a long history of human consumption has left our world drowning in this waste.
This is a compelling and urgent work that traces the related histories of population growth and resource consumption. As Hengeveld explains, human life (and population growth) depends not only on mineral resources but also on energy. People first obtained energy from food and later supplemented this with energy from water, wind, and animals as one source after another fell short of our ever-growing needs. Finally, we turned to fossil energy, which generates atmospheric waste that is the key driver of global climate change. The effects of this climate change are already leading to food shortages and social collapse in some parts of the world. Because all of these problems are interconnected, Hengeveld argues strenuously that measures to counter individual problems cannot work. Instead, we need to tackle their common cause—our staggering population growth. While many scientists agree that population growth is one of the most critical issues pressuring the environment, Hengeveld is unique in his insistence on turning our attention to the waste such growth leaves in its wake and to the increasing demands of our global society.
            A practical look at the sustainability of our planet from the perspective of a biologist whose expertise is in the abundances and distributions of species, Wasted World presents a fascinating picture of the whole process of using, wasting, and exhausting energy and material resources. And by elucidating the complexity of the causes of our current global state, Hengeveld offers us a way forward.

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national market. Step by step, a new concept took shape, that of the world market, that would determine the price of the local produce. Transport systems for freight grew in scale from national to global, at first using intercontinental ships, and later, mainly after the Second World War, airplanes. During the nineteenth century, the postal system was established, which also facilitated commerce. It soon developed into an international telegraph system, which, in turn, was followed by the

stores, in turn, aim to have the most floor space that is economically viable. At the same time, they all have to pay their taxes, loans, rent and personnel, apart from the other costs of running their business. Yet, being multinational, they can avoid national taxes and regulations, thereby minimizing their costs. The overall effect is that they all run on minimal profit margins and exhaust the soil and their personnel’s social conditions, while at the same time they overproduce low-quality

tornados, drought, and heavy rains, with all the consequences of disastrous floods and greater erosion. Therefore, higher temperatures not only result in a direct increase in the likelihood of more severe droughts and an enhanced frequency of heavy precipitation, but also indirect ones. However, which parts of the world will be affected by drought or by floods can be predicted only in very general, statistical terms, because rain and wind patterns are capricious. Moreover, different combinations

arable land, from the valleys to high up in the mountains. The few photos of the area taken during the late nineteenth century show bare, eroded mountainsides, entirely cleared of the 153 154 chapter 12 ancient forests; one photo shows the remains of a solitary, branchless tree— only the trunk was left—with a couple of poor people at its foot and eroded slopes all around. Since then, new forest has grown again, but different from around the ruins of an old monastery, where there are different

leaves, and their broken-off branches are recycled continually by birds, mammals, insects, fungi, and bacteria in smaller and rapid nutrient cycles. Forests exist and are maintained through the continual turnover of nutrients laid down in trees, bushes, and herbs, and in a whole world of animals, fungi, and bacteria, each having its own turnover rate within that of the forest as a whole. These are only some of the local and most obvious effects of deforestation. But cutting down large stretches

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