Dear United Nations: A Call for Moderation and Respect

Industrialized nations know very well that their lifestyle is both a social and ecological impossibility for a majority of the world, so for them it’s either war, exploitation, or…

Statue at dusk in Edinburgh, Scotland (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)
Statue at dusk in Edinburgh, Scotland (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

As a highly developed nation, we in the United States understand that a large part of our responsibility when operating on a global scale is to assist under-developed nations in building their own staircase to the industrialized world. We take these actions so that so-called “lower” countries might make their way “higher” to being prosperous industrialized nations with abundant resources and dramatically lower rates of poverty.

But ask the world’s “developing” nations, and you might find a few people who have a slightly more sinister understanding of this process.

Many of these countries, from Ecuador to Brazil to Nigeria and countless others, understand that getting into bed with any industrialized nation is a bit like having a sleepover with vampire. Yet the situation can not be easily avoided. [1]

Gimme Resource, Gimme Labor

In a typical scenario, the industrialized nation makes excellent use of the resources and labor of the developing nation, mostly through the industrialized nation’s corporations. Labor and resource agreements are often excellent deals for the economy of the industrialized nation, but have been shown in numerous qualitative and quantitative studies to bring an overall decreased quality of life to the populations where these developments take place. [2][3][4]

Despite popular — although waning — belief, industrialized nations do not go through this process simply because they are nice people who want to eliminate poverty.

As developed nations, we step into the backyards of un-developed nations primarily for selfish reasons.

Yet this habit is a necessity for us since, over the past few decades, the typical industrialized nation has developed a consumption-based lifestyle which is unsustainable when using only its own resources. It is this lifestyle which is necessitating that each and every day, we infringe on the rights of those in other countries.

As a matter of course, in order to maintain this lifestyle, the industrialized nation must secure two things from outside its own borders: 1) natural resources and 2) labor, both of which must be bountiful and cheap, and neither of which can be had without traversing the avenues of war, exploitation, or equality.

It may sound strange for equality to be put on equal footing with war and exploitation, but equality is in fact the most powerful of the three; and strangely, although countries such as the United States preach the value of equality, they rarely contemplate using this value as a tool when dealing with the resources or the people of other countries.

The Limits to ‘Unlimited’ Economic Growth

The number of well-off industrialized nations is essentially small, limited by the overall availability of natural resources and of cheap labor, and as Economist E.F. Schumacher famously wrote in 1973 “What needs to be questioned is the assumption that the modern lifestyle can be expanded to absorb virtually the entire population…”

Today, nearly 40-years after Schumacher’s writing, industrialized nations know very well that their lifestyle is both a social and ecological impossibility for a majority of the world to ever reach. Yet it has not stopped us from spreading an unattainable dream to those who find it convenient to ignore reality.

The quandary which industrialized nations have happened upon, is that the only way to indefinitely continue their amazingly advanced lifestyles, is if there continues to be undeveloped, resource-rich nations which can be utilized for their natural resources and labor.

The world's monster example of resource usage is the United States, which hosts only 4.5% of the world's population, yet uses around 25% of its resources (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)
The world’s monster example of resource usage is the United States, which hosts only 4.5% of the world’s population, yet uses around 25% of its resources (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Unless we find another planet from which to take resources and cheap labor, it’s clear that we’ve landed ourselves in the middle of a rather large problem which pans out very badly for developing nations in the short term, and will work out even worse for the industrialized nations in the long term, as these countries have become dependent on an unlimited supply of limited resources.

As for the ‘developing’ nations today, in order to successfully make their way to a consumer-based, poverty-free, lifestyle — the likes of which is enjoyed by all except a scant 46.2 million people in the U.S. — they will also likely need to find a nation or two to take advantage of. [5]

Unfortunately, the list of nations which are primarily un-developed — at least on this planet — is rather short of late, with only sixteen countries making the IMF list as of 2005. [6]

Our world leaders understand that world sustainability problems could be solved with the application of a simple ideology based on moderation and respect (for each other and the planet), yet they also know that before this ideology stands mounds of very serious politics, business, money, and other such important matters. [7]

To them, sociecity wishes to suggest the following statement, one which might easily replace guiding documents such as the fluffy 53-page Rio+20 document:

We, the world’s industrialized nations, hereby agree to cease utilizing the resources (both human and natural) of primarily un-developed nations in the name of monetary and material gains, and instead agree to focus our efforts on global equality in all facets; furthermore, we acknowledge that this dramatic shift in policy must result in all of the world’s countries adjusting their personal, industrial, and commercial resource-intensive lifestyles so as to fit collectively within the means of available global resources in a sustainable way.

Sources:

[1] The Unsustainable Earth Summit – Bangkok Post

[2] Hammond, John L. “The Resource Curse and Oil Revenues in Angola and Venezuela.” Science & Society 75, no. 3 (2011): 348-78.

[3] Oil Turmoil in Nigeria – Journeyman Pictures (film)

[4] Amid Brazil’s Rush to Develop, Workers Resist – New York Times

[5] Poverty Highlights – U.S. Census Bureau

[6] Third World Countries List – International Monetary Fund

[7] A Cruel and Unusual Record – President Jimmy Carter

 

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