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If all countries were developed countries, could the Earth sustain us all?

We all despise poverty, and everything that goes with it - hunger, abuse, slavery, poor education, and so on. We would prefer if everyone lived a comfortable life, educated with a decent house and job, sufficient food, electricity, indoor plumbing, washing machines, stoves, computers and other comforts.

Can the Earth sustain such a lifestyle for everyone? If not, what would need to be changed?

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    Apr 22 2011: all countries can not be developed at the same time...i guess. because the developed countries are developed in the expences of undeveloped and developing countries... if all countries are developed means, everything(resources) is equally shared between all countries. for the growth of something...something else should decay.
    • Apr 23 2011: Hi Pranoy, Thanks for your comment. I am not sure that I agree that developed countries are developed at the expense of others. I know that colonial history plays a significant role in the development of many countries that are considered developed today. I also know that there is exploitation of resources by multinationals in developing countries as well. However, I also know that in these developing countries, nothing happens without the consent and knowledge of the ruling governments. In others words, multinationals do only what they are allowed to do. So one of the others things we need to get rid of is corruption in developing countries.Peter Eigen's talk on corruption may be useful.
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    May 16 2011: I suppose that I have a rather pragmatic view about the relationship between developed and undeveloped countries. It seems to me that Newton's third law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) applies here; one nation cannot become developed without harming the economy of another developed nation. So it seems to me that if all countries were on the road to becoming developed, the Earth, the world economy and the world's food supplies would all fail to sustain our new way of life. It is unfortunate, but history implies that it is true.
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    Apr 22 2011: The most developed countries today are greedy, completely uneconomical, and don't give a damn that there are much better alternatives out there for the things we need. If we can tweak our systems even just a little bit, everything will get much better...but here's the catch. The alternatives aren't profitable! So what changes? Well...nothing.
    • Apr 23 2011: Hi Sargis, I hope it is not as hopeless as you suggest though I can understand your frustration. Attitudes need to change, values need to change. I think if people keep talking openly about it, keep looking for solutions, and properly educate the next generations so that their creativity is not stifled, we can get there :-)
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        Apr 24 2011: It's far from hopeless Julie. On the contrary, there has never been such a great moment in history to rise to the occasion because we have the ability and resources to impact our entire world very easily thanks to technology. My point was that we need to take the responsibility upon ourselves and stop expecting our so-called leaders to make a difference because they never will. Not because they don't necessarily want to but because our system won't allow them to. We need to understand the problem and face it together. Unity is our only hope in my humble opinion.
  • Apr 22 2011: Currently, an Earth with all countries as developed countries would be unsustainable.
    But if we can control nuclear fusion it probably would be, because then we would have limitless energy from the abundant sea water which would make mining feasible from areas where it is currently uneconomical to do so (due to lower concentration of the resource). And once you have enough of the necessary materials (iron, aluminium, copper, lithium (to make the shift to electric cars) etc.) you only have to improve the government and management systems, system of laws (and their implementation), education system, set up primary, secondary and tertiary sector industries etc. to make a country developed.
    (Availability of resources and cheap energy are the necessary starting points for economic development.)
    Cheap energy would also make it possible to recapture the billions and billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we have released in the atmosphere in the past hundred years and thus reverse global warming.
    As for limited arable land, once we have the above, we could make multi-storeyed farms with artificial solar lights to meet food requirements.
    If our population spirals out of control to a point where all of earth's resources would be insufficient, we would probably have to mine other planets (or live there).
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    • Apr 23 2011: Hi Pabitra, I agree we need to change our value system. While everyone wants to have a certain level of comfort, excesses place a lot of stress on resources, especially when you consider that developed countries today make up a small percentage of the entire global population. It really comes back to how do we measure our worth - is it just the monetary value and material accumulations or is there some measure of how you contribute to society - whether it be by being a great teacher who helps many to optimize their potential, a great parent who gave the world children who are caring and who themselves contribute to the constructive development of society, a great scientist with innovative ideas and so on.
  • Apr 21 2011: Great question. The invironment has already began to give us signs of our abuses. Our economic model needs a continuous grouwth of the countries economies and Wall Street needs it too. I think we still have time to change our minds. The comforts, you mentioned, are easy to sell, they are good for the economy, but are they really good for us? if we don't try a completely new model of economy, we wiil soon pay the price.
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    Apr 21 2011: If the theory is correct that countries with high standards of education especially in women tend to have a lower birth rate (Due to choice one assumes) then surely it would follow that should be the pattern worldwide?
    • Apr 23 2011: Yes, there have been declining populations in some developed countries, with governments offering substantial monetary incentives for couples to have more children. Education would certainly help the global population outlook. With an educated population, there would also be more people working on solutions, though presumably, there would also be more people trying to accumulate as much as they can. The trick is whether a balance could be achieved.
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    Apr 18 2011: We have some adjustments to make. It may be hard or it may be easier, but I believe humans will make the adjustments. Largely under economic pressures. Perhaps with government incentives (or disincentives) based on resource consumption or environmental impact.

    On the other hand, maybe it will be like George Carlin has said and the earth will "shake us off like a bad case of the fleas" and another specie will get a chance.
  • Apr 18 2011: Yes, I agree significant changes are necessary. It is unimaginable what the planet would be like if over 6 billion people had one or two cars per household, the industry and commercial activity required to generate electricity, manufacture goods and so on, using the current model of development.

    There is an article by a journalist named Gwynne Dyer that may be of interest
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10674891
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    • Apr 18 2011: Hi Richard, thanks for the comments. Any thoughts on what the economic model could be and how the monetary system should be changed?
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        • Apr 18 2011: Thanks Richard, every erudite approach. You are quite correct that I could research all the topics posted here on the Internet, and not take the time to engage in these conversations. However, I find that the topics, in general, do not seek at definitive answer but rather call upon personal experience and opinions. That aspect of interaction I find appealing. However, your take is noted :-) Cheers
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    Apr 17 2011: depends on the level of technology. energy efficient machinery, high yield agriculture, recycling, clean energy ... these things are all in sight, not science fiction. we just need a little more development. we need that last mile.
    • Apr 18 2011: Hi Krisztian, I agree that the technology needed is already in place or within reach. It would be nice to see harmonious existence among humans and between humans and their environment.