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Thomas Friedman: 'The Earth is full'

08 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: General Political

“The Earth is full,” Thomas Friedman concluded in a NY Times Op-ed Wednesday. Friedman, an award-winning journalist and author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded argues that current global resource use is simply unsustainable and that the earth’s inhabitants must go through a revolutionary, fundamental change in consumption or perish. 

Human consumption has outpaced the Earth’s ability to reproduce according to information by the Global Footprint Network, a coalition of scientists who calculate the amount of resources necessary to sustain human growth. “Right now,” explains Friedman, “global growth is using about 1.5 Earths.”

Such unsustainable growth, Friedman articulates, is pushing the Earth increasingly towards a crisis that will fundamentally change how society operates on the most basic level. 

Friedman writes:

"We’re currently caught in two loops: One is that more population growth and more global warming together are pushing up food prices; rising food prices cause political instability in the Middle East, which leads to higher oil prices, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to more instability. At the same time, improved productivity means fewer people are needed in every factory to produce more stuff. So if we want to have more jobs, we need more factories. More factories making more stuff make more global warming, and that is where the two loops meet."

It’s not a matter of choice, Friedman argues. But rather, it is more a matter of “when.” The Earth’s population can either choose to continue to deplete the Earth’s resources now, or face the consequences of the future. 

View the Global Footprint Network’s 2010 Living Planet Report here.


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