After reading this article you will learn about the problems of higher living standard.

1. Environment Problem:

We are seriously polluting and destroying the ecosystems of the planet. We are likely to kill off millions of plant and animal species and to bring about major disruptions to the globe’s climatic systems within a few decades. These are direct consequences of the fact that too much production and consumption is going on.

2. Resource and Energy Scarcity:

We are using up world resources rapidly, yet only the few who live in rich countries are getting most of them. It is extremely unlikely that remaining resources would enable all the world’s people to rise to the per capita rate of use that very few in rich countries have now.

3. Poverty and Underdevelopment of the Third World:

The determination of the few who live in developed countries to have high material living standard is a major factor increasing the problems of the many whom live in poor countries. Third World people can never reach the living standards because there are not enough accessible resources left. This means the rich are taking much more than their fair share and are using up many valuable things that they need, such as oil.


They take more than their share because they can pay more than the poor can. A market system allocates scarce things to richer people regardless of how much poor people need them. They are getting many of these resources from the Third World, including a large quantity of food from hungry countries.

Much of their land, labour and infrastructure is devoted to production which mostly benefits their corporations, the Third World upper classes and consumers in developed countries. Those who produce their goods in the plantations, mines and factories receive very low wages. People of developed countries get most of the benefits of their labour.

In other words the poor majority are receiving very little benefit from the “growth and trickle down” approach to development that has been taken. This really only results in development in the interests of the rich, mainly those in rich countries.

They have their high living standards partly because much Third World economic activity is geared largely to their benefit when it should be producing what people in the Third World need.


1. The determination to have ever-higher living standards while resources become more and more difficult to obtain and the poor majority of the world’s people strive to become affluent like them can only lead towards more and more conflict in the world.

2. From here on the individualistic and competitive quest for more and more material affluence, and the promotion of more and more commercial activity is likely to cause social breakdown and reduce the quality of life, for instance as people buy more and do less for themselves, share less and live more privately.

3. In all countries, including the richest, inequality and deprivation seem to be increasing. The “growth and trickle down” strategy is not solving the problems of people at the bottom of society. Our economy has a strong tendency to devote resources and development to the interests of the relatively rich and to ignore the poor.

Technical advance can be expected to make factories more efficient and therefore to dump more and more people into unemployment as the years go by.


4. Most, if not all, of the major global problems are rapidly becoming more serious. Technology is not solving them. At 3-4% p.a. economic growth many of the basic problems become twice as big every 18-23 years. The problems cannot be solved unless they change from the lifestyles and systems that are causing them.

4. Economy: Basic Source of the Problems:

Our present economic system cannot tolerate any reduction in our present grossly unnecessary levels of production and consumption. In fact it must have at least 3% more produced and consumed each year or there is trouble. Nor can it ensure that resources are justly distributed or that our abundant productive capacity is devoted to the most needed tasks.

Additional concerns and criticisms from a variety of people include:

(i) The increasing corporate power and their influence in the industrialized countries and international trade agreements, while their accountability is very small.

(ii) The effect on the environment due to the over-consumption/throw-away model of most developed nations not allowing for much sustainable development.

(iii) Taking away influential decisions from publicly elected governments to privately owned corporations. Some even call large transnational corporations and their drive to open up markets around the world as the modem form of colonialism.

(iv) The stability of jobs, would also continue to fall as less regulation means that corporations can easily move from country to country in search of cheapest costs (and labour forces are often very expensive).

(v) Only the wealthy nations will benefit, while the poorer ones will suffer the most in this. It will not just be poor people from developing nations, but poor people in industrialized countries too. For example, corporations are able to be freer to move around and avoid substantial taxes.

Inequalities and gaps between those who have and those who do not is already shown to be rising in these early years of globalization.



All these apparently separate problems are inter related. They are all consequences of greed and growth society. There is, therefore, really only one problem and there is one neat solution. We must work towards a society that does not generate these problems, i.e., a society that is not over-consuming, over-producing and over-developing.

The limits to growth argument are that our way of life is quite unsustainable. The few who live in rich countries like Australia can only have it for a short period because they are using up much more than their fair share of the world’s resources.

Their affluent way of life is also rapidly destroying the ecosystems of the planet, and yet they insist on growth, on constantly increasing levels of production and consumption, without limit.


In natural systems there can be much growth for a period followed by decay but overall levels of activity, production, energy flow etc., must in the long term be stable. An economy growing at 3% p. a for 70 years will then be churning out 8 times as much every, year. Obviously in the real world an economy or any other entity must before long cease growing.

They must therefore, change to a way of life in which all the world’s people can live well without anywhere near as much resource use and environmental impact as there is now. “The rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live.”


Conserved Society:

There is an alternative! There is a large literature & a worldwide movement concerned with living in ways that are quite comfortable but involve far less per capita resource use and environmental impact. Conserved society has to be much less affluent based on a high level of local self-sufficiency, fairly co-operative and within a zero growth or steady state economy.


The essential need is to develop highly self-sufficient, small- scale socio-economic systems, so that people in a suburb or town can provide for themselves most of the goods and services they need.

There are many places around the world where people are developing alternative settlements along these lines. These conserved ways would not involve hardship or deprivation and would actually provide a higher quality of life than we have now. It is not implied that the transition must be rapid or chaotic. It is conceivable that it could be made fairly smoothly over many decades.

There can be few more important issues for any-one to come to terms with than the stark choice between these two paths. The conventional view is that raising living standards and the GNP should be our supreme goals and that this is the path most likely to solve our problems.

The limits to growth view is that a sustainable world order can only be achieved if we abandon affluence and growth and radically change lifestyles and systems in order to cut levels of resource use and environmental impact to far lower levels than at present. There is now a diverse and rapidly growing literature, and accelerating global social movement concerned with the limits to growth and the sustainable society.