If Everyone Lived Liked Americans, How Many Earths Would We Need?


I think we have all come to the realization that America consumes way more of the world's "stuff" than the people we account for.  Americans make up for roughly 5% of the world's population, but we consume much more than that.  We use 20% of the world's energy, eat 15% of the world's meat and create 40% of the garbage on Earth.


One American consumes as much energy as:

2 Japanese

6 Mexicans

13 Chinese

31 Indians

128 Bangladeshis

370 Ethiopians


·       The population is projected to increase by nearly 130 million people - the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California - by the year 2050.

·       Forty percent of births are unintended.

·       Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day - that's roughly 200 billion more than needed - enough to feed 80 million people.

·       Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.

·       The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.

·       The average individual daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world's population lives on 25 gallons.

·       Fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie have been destroyed in the last 200 years.

·       Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock.

·       Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production.

·       Every day an estimated nine square miles of rural land are lost to development.

·       There are more shopping malls than high schools.




In order to create the graphic above, the Global Footprint Network's 2011 estimates of the average "ecological footprint" of people from several countries were used.  Then the footprint was multiplied by the total population of the world to figure out the amount of land needed.  All land on Earth was accounted for except for Antarctica.

What does this mean?  If everyone in the world lived like those in Bangladesh, we would only need the land mass of parts of Asia and Africa to sustain all of us.  However, if everyone lived like Americans, we would need over 4 Earths to sustain our lifestyle.  That is not even as bad as it gets.  The United Arab Emirates are worse than America.  We would need almost 5 and a half Earths to live the way we do.  I think this graphic clearly shows that even though times are tough, America does have it pretty well compared to the rest of the world.  4 times better than average according to this.  Perhaps this is why other parts of the world view Americans as "pigs."


How does how much we consume correlate with the amount we contribute to global warming? If we'd need 4 times the earth just for consumption, does that mean we can reduce global warming by a similiar amount? Global warming has to do with how much greenhouse gases are produced and it's negative effects on our climate. Human activity contributes to global warming effect and over the past 2,000 years, humans have increased the natural process by 30%. Altogether, we have done a lot to reduce our effect on the environment, including hybrid cars and production of plastic bottles. If we reduce our consumption on a whole, we could possibly reduce global warming as well.

Obviously, these numbers are pretty staggering. The fact that it takes 370 Ethiopians to consume the same amount of energy as 1 American is borderline immoral. The question I have regarding this, however, is how much of this is strictly human nature? Meaning, if everyone in the world had access to the type of luxuries that most all of Americans do, how many of them would not incorporate them into their daily life? This is not say that I support American's gluttonous habits or our tendency to over consume even the most basic things. As a country, we need to start becoming less selfish. I'm just curious to see that if all of the world was given the opportunities that the average American is given, how many of them would turn it down?

I definitely agree with Jeff that as a country, we need to become less selfish. If the world was given the opportunities that the average American is given, most of them would definitely not turn it down, but maybe they would be smarter than many of us. In my environmental science class last year we all figured out our ecological footprints, and everyone's number was extremely high. We raised our hands to answer some questions, and something that stood out to me was that over half of my class leaves the water running when they brush their teeth. This really stuck with me because we had just learned about how fortunate we are to have clean drinkable water, and how so many countries don't have this. We should conserve it as much as possible! People can do little things to reduce their ecological footprint, like take shorter showers or turn the water off when brushing their teeth.. It's so easy to change little things and help out!

I agree with Jeffrey. If people were provided with the same opportunities from the get go as Americans then their human nature to consume what they want (can) will take over. Developing countries with a low standard of living consume less because one can only consume only what they have access to.
On another note, greed is inevitable and there definitely is a relationship between greed and over consumption. According, to The Guardian, The consumer culture is no longer a mostly American habit but is spreading across the planet. Over the last 50 years, excess has been adopted as a symbol of success in developing countries from Brazil to India to China. This increasing desire to over consume will have to change or it will pose new crises such as a food and home shortage. Ultimately, high consumerism is not going to be viable as the world population grows and as more countries grow in economic power.

I think this article and blog topic was a real eye opener for me, as well as hopefully my fellow students. I feel as if Americans in general can be very selfish at times and when it comes down to using less nonrenewable resources and being a lot more conscientious about how much we're using, the Earth could be a much better place. Obviously the United States holds much of the Earth's power as one of the leading nations; however, with that power it is up to us to become more responsible. With this, like Mayra said, countries that are slowly trying to build their economy and become more united as a country will have trouble rising their standard of living because less will be available to them. I feel that as a country, we should unite to together further promote important ideas such as recycle and using less resources, such as stop leaving the water running while people brush their teeth (what Megan stated). I truly feel that as such a big and strong country we live in, we easily can accomplish whatever we set our minds to and allow future generations to be able to have the same opportunities, if not more, than what we have today!

Very interesting article. You should check out the Human Footprint movie. http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/human_footprint it is very interesting. I first saw this movie and high school and this article reminded me of it so I found it on the internet. Obviously you don't need to watch the whole thing but just watch certain parts. It shows how much of certain things we eat and wasteful things we do throughout are lives. For example they show a huge amount of chickens and tell us that this is how many chickens we eat in our lifetime. It's ver facinating to see how much we eat in our lives, especially since, according to these results we could probably eat less than half of what we are eating now and be perfectly healthy, and use a lot less energy as well.

This article really opened my eyes. I never knew that we Americans overuse things. We need to start conserving not just for our country, but for every country around the world. We need to take and use less so that we can decrease our numbers and become more like India and Bangladesh. We waste so much food, and electricity, and money when we could be saving so much. This article really highlights the negative aspects of our country that could be fixed if everyone just thought more about the Earth and started to conserve and respect what it gives us.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Alcohol and Energy Drinks
We've all heard of Four Lokos (or "blackout in a can") and the drama surrounding them when they first came…
It isn't up to the Keratin
Many girls who have naturally curly, wavy, or frizzy hair have started looking into getting keratin treatments at their local…
It isn't up to the Keratin
Many girls who have naturally curly, wavy, or frizzy hair have started looking into getting keratin treatments at their local…

Old Contributions