Grotesque Global Inequity Threatens Ecological Collapse and Horrific Death for All

Barry, Glen | October 24, 2017 | Leave a Comment

WFP Nutrition Programme, North Darfur A community volunteer weighs a child with malnutrition at a food distribution centre in the Rwanda camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), near Tawila, North Darfur. More than 8,000 women and children living in the camp benefit from nutrition programmes run by the World Food Programme (WFP).Photo by United Nations Photo | Flickr |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hundreds of millions of global elites feast upon the finest delicacies a diminished Earth has to offer, as billions struggle to meet basic needs, and oligarchs amass unheard of wealth and entire governments. Each in their own way destroys our one shared biosphere that makes Earth habitable.


This article was originally published on September 24th —updated October 1st— by EcoInternet, and can be found here. You can stay updated on news from EcoInternet through the MAHB’s Breaking News section.


The disparity of wealth and well-being which currently exists globally is grotesque and threatens us all with a horrific death as demands upon nature for consumption overwhelm the biosphere.

The stupid among us will wrongly call such concerns communism, while the intent is simply to ask how much is enough? And how much can we each have if we value fairness, the well-being of all humans and species, and seek global ecological sustainability forever?

It is evil incarnate that some have so much as many have so little. Systematic racism and other injustices provide a gilded legacy of plenty to entire families over generations, as some human beings through no fault of their own have few if any opportunities for advancement. Basic human-needs of food, water, shelter, clothing – to say nothing of higher level needs for community, love, and security – are systematically unmet for billions. Some of the disparity is certainly due to intelligence and hard-work, yet the majority of inequity is due to the random location of your birth and the circumstances therein. And much inequity is due to the rich impeding advancement by the poor if it even minutely diminishes the growth of their own wealth.

“Consume only your          

fair share of nature          

or being ends.”          

– Dr. Glen Barry          

It is not a coincidence that record global economic inequity comes as abrupt climate change and ecosystem loss threatens to end being. Inequitable over-population and disparities in consumption are the primary forces destroying our ecological heritage and ushering in an era of resource-scarcity.

Natural ecosystems are collapsing as our very climate fails. Racism, chauvinism, and even slavery are resurgent. The human family is poised upon the precipice of biosphere collapse and the end of being. Solutions are impeded by the rise once again of authoritarian fascism based upon anti-science and anti-intellectualism.

Science informs all equipped to listen that soils, wetlands, oceans, forests, water, and the air– the foundations of biological life – are all being liquidated for human consumption and as a result nature, wildlife, and humans are dying. Our immediate future is one of ghastly extreme weather events, a state of escalating perma-war scrambling to access reduced natural resources, and large-scale famine as ecosystems collapse and water and food sources fail.

As I have earlier asked in How Much Is Enough, how have we allowed a band of a couple hundred selfish oligarchs to amass half of Earth’s wealth as over a billion human beings struggle to exist in abject poverty? How do we justify owners of capital making 600 times the wage of their average worker? Wouldn’t their job creation prowess and hard work be sufficiently, even opulently, rewarded with 25 times pay disparity, as was once the case?

It is difficult for the  bourgeoisie to imagine the horrors of abject poverty. Putting your children to bed hungry, in a cardboard box, as they cry out in pain before death. Selling your body and soul for your next meal, as your whole being aches with yearning for basic human comforts you see others possess and to which all aspire and deserve. The horrors include untreated disease, open defecation, human trafficking, continual violence, and a joyless miserable existence.

Dogs and cats for the well-off are treated much better than billions of poor people, many of whose labor supports the rich.

The Earth is a finite place (however much the siren call of techno-optimists wails). Humanity has gone from a population of one to over seven billion in only 135 years. Demands for consumption of all sorts of items including meat, iPhones, cars, air travel, large homes, and appliances have surged.

Quite simply not enough ecosystems remain to be liquidated for resources to provide all poverty stricken peoples the level of consumption enjoyed by a typical middle-class American. The nearly global embrace of democratic consumption as the meaning of life means that the rich scour the Earth for luxuries, as the poor do what is necessary to survive (including mass migration), each diminishing Earth’s natural capital and productive capacities.

It is not suggested here that everyone should live equally; just fairly, with all basic needs met, as the sum of global consumption remains within Earth’s limits for regeneration.

“May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.”

– Immanuel Kant, the “Categorical Imperative” from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)

Kant’s categorical imperative emphasized that ethics are founded upon universality. Now more so than ever, the measure of a person’s character is whether they are living in a way that does not diminish the ability of others to achieve a similar standard of well-being.

The ecological and ethical conundrum is this: the comforts associated with consumption are being realized at a greater rate than nature can provide, even as many suffer from want. Either the rich will accept less in order that all can attain some basic measure of human well-being, even as sum consumption shrinks; or we face the final liquidation of nature and an appalling era of ecological collapse before the end of being.

We need to learn once again to share as we renounce usury, avarice, and greed. We must seek a higher degree of enlightenment that values equity, justice, and ecology more than gorging ourselves upon ill-gotten fruits. It is time to evolve together to a higher consciousness that values universal truths and well-being.

We are one human family, and are all in this together. Believe that the world can be a better place and come together with others to make it so. Think big and out of the box for solutions. A basic human income for all, just by virtue of your birth and existence, could largely eliminate abject poverty while shrinking big government.

At one time humanity sought increased awareness of the nature of being, and to maximize our well-being through continual self-improvement. Thus liberal democracy, personal freedom, and greater political participation for non-white men became established. Yet these advancements have been shown in recent years to be vacuous and weak as even a slight decline in household consumption leads many to embrace all sorts of charlatan demagoguery.

As Earth and her humanity fall into nothingness, I implore you to resist such a fate.

Consume only your fair share of nature or being ends.

The ethical measure of a person is the degree to which they are regenerating nature, and that their sum impact upon ecology is positive. Only widespread embrace of such an ecology ethic can now save Earth and humanity.

What does this mean in practice? Sell your car. Return to the land to produce food and restore ecosystems. Have 1 or if you must at most 2 children. Eat less or no meat, and local organic foods. Travel via air infrequently if at all. And reject over-consumption as the meaning of life, instead valuing fairness and truth.

Favor deep experience, community, nature, and learning over more stuff. Consume only as much as is available universally for all. Know how much is enough and how to share. Such an ecology ethic is the new categorical imperative if together we are to avoid abrupt climate change and global ecological collapse.


This article was originally published on September 24th —updated October 1st— by EcoInternet, and can be found here. You can stay updated on news from EcoInternet through the MAHB’s Breaking News section.


The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/grotesque-global-inequity/

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  • 9eyedeel

    this is the testament of the most boring religion ever

    I spit in your face

  • Heartlander11

    thank you for this very moving piece. However I felt it left a few realities out of the complete picture and conflated several issues that need to be separated despite the argument that they are intertwined . First, I could have MUCH less and I seriously doubt that others would have more because of the “accident of locale” – corrupt government officials in too many countries are enriching themselves and abusing their own citizens by engaging in endless wars or mad power scrambles. In fact if I had LESS and paid more in taxes, foreign aid, and charity it is very possible many others would have even LESS and the new monies would just drive a new wave of greed and corruption. People are not hungry because there is not enough food. If I ate less it would not translate into someone else eating more. Second – I accept that what I have has come at the unsustainable expense of the planet. However = every day I see policies and procedures enacted that make other ways of life almost impossible. One example: go try to repair an old building in the downtown of a small town. Too expensive due to the excessive demands of codes (that are now going way beyond basic safety) and the difficulty level of the skills needed to do the work. Much easier and cheaper to find a vacant piece of land and build new. Two small examples of the thousands of points that could be made.
    I think these passionate “rants” do not win hearts and minds. I think most of us want to do the right thing but feel powerless in the face of global issues where it is difficult to determine root causes and where many (here I am writing generally and not in any way referencing the author of this piece) of those in academia and global NGOS – live very comfortable lives, jetting here and there. Many of the people I interact with on a daily basis are trying to live gentler on the planet. Some humility, an attempt to meet people where they are in their thinking, and some concrete opportunities that make it clear how changing what you do has practical (not theoretical) impact could be more useful. But before anything can be done there needs to be some stability in the countries that have historically suffered.

  • JohnTaves

    Failure to mention that we must not average more than 2 babies renders this whole diatribe useless.

    Let’s look at the circular logic that everyone, including the leaders of MAHB use. They, and you, believe that we are not at the population limit, such that births are causing child mortality, because there is a lot of resources that could have been distributed to the poor if only we behaved more equitably. But notice that this article is saying that we do not behave in a way that fairly distributes the food.

    I have to assume that because they believe we are not at the population limit, they are willing to believe that the demographic transition is showing a mechanism that ensures we do not overbreed. There is no such mechanism. We do not, and never will, distribute subsistence “equitably”, “fairly”, or whatever word you want to use, because you simply cannot define these words. You will always be able to find a discrepancy no matter how saintly we behave. And even if we manage to behave as saintly as you demand, we still must not average too many babies.

    Why doesn’t the MAHB comprehend this? Why don’t you comprehend this? Why are there no educators that explain that averaging too many babies is killing children right now? Averaging too many babies causes groups of people to suffer starvation related child mortality.

    Why does nobody comprehend this?

    • Jason G. Brent

      The latest medium variant prediction/estimate/projection issued by the UN’s demographers is that the human population will try to reach about 11.2 billion by the year 2100. The earth will never support a population level that high, combined with the increasing per capita usage of the earths resources. Therefore, anyone producing more than two children is a mass murderer and should be immediately executed for crimes against humanity. jbrent6179@aol.com Jason G. Brent

      • JohnTaves

        I don’t see the point of predicting the future to make the point. Throughout history the human population has been trying to reach levels
        above what was possible. The result is child mortality. Groups of people
        suffering starvation related child mortality is the exact consequence
        of averaging too many babies world wide.

        I cannot tell if you are serious or being sarcastic. I agree that averaging too many babies is killing and always has been killing children. I don’t agree that we know this, so I don’t agree that we can attempt to arrest and convict those that average too many. In addition, given that we are consuming resources faster than they renew, we must average less than 2, so “more than 2” is still too many.

    • Julian Cribb

      Probably because it is only half the problem, John.
      The average wealthy citizen consumes 6-10 times more resources than a poor person in a poor country – and 10 times more than their own great grandparents did. It is rich people who are destroying the planet, not babies.
      That said, the conundrum is that birth rates drop dramatically if you lift living standards. Finding the ‘sweet spot’ between overpopulation and overextraction for humanity as a whole is the challenge.
      Finally allow me to observe that the women of the world, without consulting men, have already cut their fertility rate from 4.4 to 2.4 babies in the past 40 years, and should attain zpg by sometime around mid-century, quietly and without raving.
      PS. Incidentally, there is plenty of evidence that rich families with few children are now causing them to die prematurely through over-malnutrition (obesity, diabetes, toxic processed foods etc). There are now 2.1 billion overnourished compared to 815 million undernourished. Which is the larger problem?

      • JohnTaves

        I don’t mean to be rude or insulting, but this is the typical response I get from population experts. They completely fail to comprehend my words. I don’t understand why.

        For example, my third paragraph should make the reader think about what “overbreeding” is and whether there is a mechanism that somehow regulates fertility to ensure we don’t overbreed. In response, I am told about the trend that women have cut the fertility rate in the past 40 years. I know about that trend. It is generally referred to as the demographic transition. I stated the demographic transition is not a mechanism that ensures we do not overbreed. What do I have to state to get people to question their conclusions drawn from these observations? Is there any reason to assume that the “low fertility” will continue? Is there any reason to conclude this is showing us some sort of mechanism that is beneficial? For example, how many years, decades, or generations, of low fertility do you need to observe in order to decide that a trend is in fact showing a mechanism? Also, WTF is “low fertilty”? Is it low enough?

        Has it occurred to any population scientist that they have to prove that beliefs that affect how many babies you have cannot be passed from parents to their children in order to have any basis for abusing low fertility trends to predict the future?

        In addition, I wrote “You will always be able to find a discrepancy no matter how saintly we behave. And even if we manage to behave as saintly as you demand, we still must not average too many babies.” and yet I get statistics on how rich consume 6 to 10 times more than poor. Why did you pick that useless statistic? Why not point out that I consume infinitely more resources than the millions that die of starvation related causes every year?

        What level of evenness are you shooting for? Did my original statement provide zero impetus to actually thing about that?

    • Glen Barry

      Clearly you didn’t read the article John. There it is right in there:

      “… Have 1 or if you must at most 2 children.”

      • JohnTaves

        Yanking that quote out of the article is very deceiving.

        That quote came from within this paragraph. “Sell your car. Return to the land to produce food and restore ecosystems. Have 1 or if you must at most 2 children. Eat less or no meat, and local organic foods. Travel via air infrequently if at all. And reject over-consumption as the meaning of life, instead valuing
        fairness and truth.”

        This paragraph makes it perfectly clear that the author has no clue that averaging too many babies is the one and only factor that matters. Before I point out how useless “sell your car” and “travel via air infrequently” are, I have to rant about the utter stupidity of “over-consumption”. What is this? Go ahead and define “over-consumption”.

        Maybe it means that we should not consume resources faster than they renew. For example, we should not burn fossil fuels? Wouldn’t burning fossil fuels be “over consumption” because we cannot do this indefinitely. Um, wait, damn, if we don’t consume fossil fuels, we don’t know how to keep the current 7.5b humans alive. Billions would die if we just off the oil spigot.

        Let’s imagine if we all eat only veggies and we never travel by air and we don’t have cars, and we don’t consume fossil fuels and we ensure that nobody gets more calories than necessary to keep their bodies healthy. Let’s imagine that the population is at the maximum that can be kept alive at one time when we behave this altruistic way and we average 3 babies. In this scenario, 1/3rd of the children will die.

        Now, let’s imagine if we eat whatever we want, run the water in our faucets to get them hot, drive cars, fly airplanes to go water skiing, and spill gas on the ground. Let’s imagine that the population is at the maximum that can be kept alive at one time given this behavior, and we average 3 babies. In this scenario 1/3rd of the children will die.

        Let’s look at hundreds of thousands of years of human history. Nobody can credibly fit an exponential curve to the human population level, yet during that whole time reproduction was attempting exponential growth. Gee, how is it possible to NOT get exponential growth when our reproduction is relentlessly attempting it. Maybe, just maybe, we can put 2 and 2 together and comprehend that child mortality was happening to wipe out the excessive average number of babies humans create.

        There is a formula for the rate that children must die. (x-2)/x children must die when we average x babies. There is no place in that formula to put “Travel via air infrequently if at all. ” in order to reduce the child mortality rate. I totally agree that if you want to cook up some arbitrary short time span (e.g. my life time), then yes you can reduce the child mortality rate via other means besides reducing the average number of babies we create.

        If we comprehend this, then what is the point of this article? Does the author believe we should all live like inmates in a concentration camp where we each get the absolute minimum nutrition to keep us alive, and then the author will finally admit that maybe just maybe we need to stop confusing the issue by inventing nonsense like “over-consumption” and start stating the one and only thing that matters: how many babies we average.