world has three broad ecological classes: the consumers,
the middle income, and the poor. The world's poor--some
1.1 billion people--includes all households that earn
less than $700 a year per family member. They are mostly
rural Africans, Indians, and other South Asians. They
eat almost exclusively grains, root crops, beans, and
other legumes, and they drink mostly unclean water. They
live in huts and shanties, they travel by foot, and most
of their possessions are constructed of stone, wood, and
other substances available from the local environment.
This poorest fifth of the world's people earns just 2%
of world income.
3.3 billion people in the world's middle-income class
earn between $700 and $7,500 per family member and live
mostly in Latin America, the Middle
and East Asia. This class also
includes the low-income families of the former Soviet
bloc and of western industrial nations. With notable exceptions,
they eat a diet based on grains and water, and lodge in
modest buildings with electricity for lights, radios,
and, increasingly, refrigerators and clothes washers.
They travel by bus, railway, and bicycle and maintain
a small stock of durable goods. Collectively, they claim
33% of world income.
consumer class--the 1.1 billion members of the global
consumer society--includes all households whose income
per family member is above $7,500. We dine on meat and
processed, packaged foods, and imbibe soft drinks and
other beverages from disposable containers.
have refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, abundant
hot water, dishwashers, microwave ovens, and a plethora
of other electric-powered gadgets. We travel in private
automobiles and airplanes, and surround ourselves with
a profusion of short-lived, throwaway goods. The consumer
class takes home 64% of world income--32 times as much
as the poor.
consumer class counts among its members most North Americans,
West Europeans, Japanese, Australians, and the citizens
of Hong Kong, Singapore,
and the oil sheikdoms of the Middle East.
Perhaps half the people of Eastern Europe
and the Commonwealth of Independent States are in the
consumer class, as are about one fifth of the people in
Latin America, South
Africa, and the newly
industrializing countries of Asia,
such as South Korea.
top fifth of the consumer class--the rich--makes the lowly
consumers seem deprived. In the U.S.,
for example, the highest paid fifth of income-earners
takes home more than the remaining four-fifths combined,
and top corporate executives earn 93 times as much as
the factory workers they employ. The relation between
the rich and the consumer class is a microcosm of that
between the consumer class and all people. The rich earn
more, consume more natural resources, and disturb ecological
systems more than average consumers do.
on a global scale, in terms of ecological impacts, the
greatest disparities are not between the rich and the
consumers but between the consumers and the middle-income
our grandchildren are to inherit a planet as bounteous
and beautiful as we have enjoyed, we in the consumer class
must--without surrendering the quest for advanced, clean
technology--eat, travel, and use energy and materials
more like those on the middle rung of the world's economic
ladder. The future of life on earth depends on whether
we among the richest fifth of the world's people, having
fully met our material needs, can turn to non-material
sources for fulfillment.
article and the box on page 8 were excerpted with permission
from chapters two and ten of
How Much Is Enough
Alan Durning. Norton:
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