Wealth inequality: the real crisis

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Once the pandemic is over if it ever gets resolved is the crisis in the world over? The world crisis will never be over unless the world changes its values. However, “values” is a word that most do not want to recognize as really important. If that is the case, then the world is going to plunge from one crisis to another.

For example, even the United Nations has announced global warming has begun. This is the reason we see heat waves, rising sea levels, floods, droughts happening around the world at the same time. Instead of addressing the cause, which is global warming, even the most intelligent and responsible governments are planning on ways to adapt to this particular crisis. The assumption behind these actions is that there is no way we can stop global warming and, therefore, the only recourse is to prepare for the consequences.

The world’s resources are being depleted. Instead of the world getting together to try and preserve and increase these natural resources, the opposite is happening. In his book UPHEAVAL: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, the author Jared Diamond writes:

“Today there is serious competition for fresh water in many parts, such as for the water arising from the melting of the Himalayan snow pack, which provides water for the major rivers flowing through much of China, India and Southeast Asian countries. In the case of the Mekong and other rivers flowing through Southeast Asia, dams in the upstream countries will block nutrition rich sediments from reaching downstream countries. Competition for ocean fish off the coast of West Africa is occurring among fishing boats from the European Union, China and West African nations. Other international powers “scramble” over resources for hardwood of trees growing in tropical countries and coveted by temperate industrialized countries; for rare earth elements used in industry and for soil such as China leasing agricultural land in Africa. In short, as world human population and consumption rise, we can expect many, many more conflicts caused by international competition for limiting resources.”

Jared Diamond has based his conclusions on simple logic and math. For example, even now the average per capita consumption rates of resources like oil and metals are about 32 times higher in the First World than in the developing world. Unfortunately, the production of wastes like plastics and greenhouse gas emissions are also 32 times higher in the First World than in the developing world.

This is the reason why economists and demographic experts are beginning to assert that population is not the world’s problem. There is a bigger time bomb. If the world’s population today continues to consume resources at the present rate, there would not be a resources problem.

Today, the world population is at 7.6 billion and is expected to increase to around 9.5 billion by the middle of this century. If the consumption rate of the world’s population remained the same, there would not be that much problem. The First World consists of about 1 billion people who live mostly in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia. These are the countries whose consumption rates are about 32 times higher than in the developing world, which includes China.

There are many poor countries whose consumption rate is even less than 32-to-one. What is evident is that the problem is not population but resource consumption.

If the world’s consumption rate would be equivalent to that of the First World, that would be equivalent to a world population of about 80 BILLION people. We may be able to support a world with a consumption rate of 10 billion people, but no one has argued that we can support a population of 80 BILLION people.

Governments even in poor countries like to promise their people First World lifestyles. Jared Diamond writes: “…we promise developing countries that if they will only adopt good policies, like honest government and free market economies, they too can become like the First World today. That promise is utterly impossible, a cruel hoax. We are already having difficulty supporting a First World lifestyle even now when only 1 billion people out of the world’s 7.5 billion people enjoy it.”

The immediate problem is globalization. Millions of people in poor countries are aware of the lifestyles in the rich countries. They are not willing to wait to see whether their governments can deliver the high living standards within their lifetime. Instead, they see the First World lifestyle now by emigrating, legally or illegally, to the First World.

Then the other big problem is that you have China, India and other developing countries whose aim is for their people to enjoy the consumption levels of First World countries. These are going to cause major social problems. Illegal immigration will not stop. The struggles for control of natural resources such as in the South China Sea will continue to fester.

The ideal solution is for the First World and the upper classes of the developing countries to reduce their level of consumption. Governments must then find a way of redistributing these resources among the more disadvantaged classes in terms of more equal health care, nutrition, education, transportation.

The only real solution to this global crisis is by reducing wealth inequality among nations and among social classes within nations.

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September Specials via Zoom from Write Things: Sept. 4 & 18, 2-3 p.m. Young Writers’ Hangouts with Danton Remoto & Nikki Alfar; Sept. 11: Community Class, 2-3:30 p.m. with Ambeth Ocampo; Sept. 25: Memoir writing for adults, 2-3:30 p.m. with Susan Lara.

Contact [email protected]. 0945.2273216

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