It's Time for Millennium Consumption Goals
I read yesterday that a Sri Lankan scientist is calling for the drafting of “Millennium Consumption Goals” to help rich countries curb their climate-damaging consumption habits, in the same way the poor have Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to get them out of poverty. It's a fantastic idea—but what would these MCGs include?
For those unfamiliar with the Millennium Development Goals, these are a set of eight goals for “underdeveloped” societies to halve poverty, lack of access to clean water, illiteracy, and other key indicators of underdevelopment by 2015.
So, naturally, we should have a set of parallel goals in overdeveloped countries. As the scientist, Mohan Munasinghe, noted, consumption is at the heart of overdeveloped countries' environmental burden, so tackling this issue head-on is key. And I’d argue not just for Earth but for citizens of overdeveloped countries as well.
But what targets should these MCGs set forth? Unfortunately, the article doesn’t mention anything more, but I’m going to start the list and encourage you all to add additional ideas:
- Halve obesity and overweight rates by 2020 (we’ve pushed the date back since we're starting the MCGs later than the MDGs). This will reduce mortality, morbidity, and economic costs, as well as reduce ecological pressures driven by overconsumption of food.
- Halve the work week from the current 40+ hours per week to 20 hours per week. This will better distribute jobs and wealth, promote healthier living, and reduce economic activity, which is essential in our ecologically taxed world. For a good paper on this topic, read New Economic Foundation’s excellent report 21 Hours.
- Better distribute wealth by raising taxes on the wealthiest members of society. That one will get me in trouble with the Tea Party, but let’s dust off the idea of Noblesse Oblige: to those given much, much is expected in return. The days of extreme wealth spent on luxurious living must draw to a close. The Earth can’t handle it any longer.
- Double the rate of use of non-motorized transport (bikes, walking, etc.). Increasing these forms of transport will improve health, reduce fossil fuel and materials use, and make for safer cities.
- Guarantee access to healthcare for all. Yes, this is another minefield in the U.S., but it's standard procedure in most industrial countries so it should be an easy goal for most countries to achieve.
Ok, I’ll stop there. Please help me add three more to the list to get it to eight, and then we can see about getting this submitted to the United Nations. After all, if people in overdeveloped countries can set goals for those living poorly in developing countries, the UN should show the same concern to people "living poorly" in industrial countries.