TED Conversations

Skye Kelly

Executive Director, Heal One World

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Can we expect emerging countries to curb their energy consumption, even though we had decades of flagrant use?

China, India and other emerging countries- from 3rd to 1st world in a flash- are beginning to start using resources the way we have here in the USA for decades now- some are just "basic" like indoor electricity and city infrastructures, to more grandiose things like air conditioning, SUV's and sky scrapers. With their immense populations all looking for the western way of life, mcdonalds and all- can we try and hold them to any consumption standards? To reduce fossil fuel consumption in particular. To learn from our mistakes? Should we offset them by making deeper cuts at home? Even if it is more costly upfront- how can we have them see that renewable energy may save a lot in the long run? Do you know of some countries at the forefront? I know of Germany, but in the emerging sector? It seems these countries maybe the tipping point for many issues regarding sustainability?


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  • Sep 28 2012: For any realistic plan to curb excessive use/consumption of global resources - whether energy, water,food, minerals, or whatever, I think we must consider a basic truth of human behavior that Martin Luther King and others have stated: nobody gives up power or wealth without a struggle, however *it doesn't have to be a violent struggle.*
    Harnessing the power of enlightened self-interest would get better results than trying to coerce people to decrease excessive consumption or to prevent others from increasing their use of resources.
    One example is the use of birth control. I've heard repeatedly that people who achieve a certain standard of living together with access to birth control generally have smaller families than those who don't. If you don't need to have 10 children so that 5 will live long enough to help you survive, and you can control your fertility, you're unlikely to have 5 or 10 children.

    If recycling is more advantageous than continuous consumption of non-renewable resources people will choose to do it. Example: when my town doubled the cost of sewage treatment, thus adding about 33% to my water bill, I suddenly found that I enjoyed showering with the lowest water flow I can get, and challenging myself to use less water generally. I also get a small but important feeling of self-congratulation for benefiting my budget and the larger community too.
    Perhaps it would be more interesting to think about creating scenarios where sustainable use of the planet is overwhelmingly in the self-interest of people who have access to abundant resources, for those who are currently building infrastructures to do the same, and for those who are just getting a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder up to a more abundant life.

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