Recent data about the median personal income for people over 25 in the US is $32,140.
Accordingly, if everyone in the US lived within a family composed of two adults and two kids and if all the country’s revenues were divided evenly, every household would earn $64,280. Which would be quite decent.
But even a communist approach wouldn’t solve everything.
Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste.
If everyone was consuming as enthusiastically as the United States, that’s 4.5 planets we would need.
How do we balance the fights against poverty and for sustainability?
Hard to say, because there is no industrialized country with a reasonable footprint.
The world-average ecological footprint in 2007 was 2.7 global hectares per person (18.0 billion in total). With a world-average biocapacity of 1.8 global hectares per person (12 billion in total).
The most sustainable industrialized countries average 5 gha, which is still 3 times what would be sustainable.
There is no model to follow. We have rich countries with unsustainable lifestyle and countries that are sustainable because they are too poor to be wasteful.
There’s nearly 200 countries and none of them have been able so far to find a balance between wealth and sustainability.
And so, right now, the median family of 4 in the US is still earning $64,280. Should we accept to cut this amount in half?
Innovation, ingenuity and common sense can easily bring the current global hectares per person in the US from 8 to 5. And maybe rich countries can go down to 3.5 gha without too much pain.
But then what?
Can we accept to give up wealth and material comfort to bring down our ecological footprint to what our planet can support?
Or do we say that some people deserve to be rich even if it means destroying everyone’s future?
When we’ll be interested to answer this question, the Earth’s biocapacity will have been weakened and reduced by our insane greed. Whatever is left will be ours to share. It might not be much.
It is my understanding of human history that there used to be countless models of successful balance between wealth and sustainability. But these models have been forcefully abolished by colonial empires.