A surprise – my Easter Reflection.


Is this a surprising revelation? Or not . . .


People often have surprising points of view – sometimes we’re even blind. What we believe and how we act can be astonishingly off-base. Although this article is written in context of the United States, if you are a well-to-do Canadian, Australian, or of another wealthy nationality, I hope this gives you pause for thought over the Easter weekend.


Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin County Civic Center, May 28-2010 - bruce witzel photo


Recently I subscribed to  E – the Environmental Magazine. They invite bloggers to use their magazine’s weekly EarthTalk Environmental Q&A column for free. 

There is no obligation to post and you may abridge the column and use your own photos to illustrate – the editors only ask that the essence of the EarthTalk message is kept and you link back to them.


So here it goes . . .     


Earrth Talk Logo


Dear EarthTalk: I read that a single child born in the U.S. has a greater effect on the environment than a dozen children born in a developing country? Can you explain why?—Josh C., via e-mail


  Zapotilan del Rio 1990 - bruce witzel photo-slide


Americans consume far more natural resources and live much less sustainably than people from any other large country of the world.


Woman and child, Montana USA, Oct 4-2009 - btruce witzel photo


“A child born in the United States will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil,” reports the Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, adding that the average American will drain as many resources as 35 natives of India and consume 53 times more goods and services than someone from China.


   Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oct 17-2012 - bruce witzel photo


Tilford cites a litany of sobering statistics showing just how profligate Americans have been in using and abusing natural resources. For example, between 1900 and 1989 U.S. population tripled while its use of raw materials grew by a factor of 17. 


“With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper,” he reports. “Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.”


Pulp and Paper Mill at Powell River, BC - bruce witzel photo


Tilford adds that the U.S. ranks highest in most consumer categories by a considerable margin, even among industrial nations. To wit, American fossil fuel consumption is double that of the average resident of Great Britain and two and a half times that of the average Japanese. Meanwhile, Americans account for only five percent of the world’s population but create half of the globe’s solid waste.


Higway 93 through Kootenay National Park, BC Canada Oct. 24-2014 - Bruce Witzel photo (2)


Americans’ love of the private automobile constitutes a large part of their poor ranking. The National Geographic Society’s annual Greendex analysis of global consumption habits finds that Americans are least likely of all people to use public transportation—only seven percent make use of transit options for daily commuting.




Likewise, only one in three Americans walks or bikes to their destinations, as opposed to three-quarters of Chinese.


Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco, May 26, 2010 - bruce witzel photo


While China is becoming the world’s leader in total consumption of some commodities (coal, copper, etc.), the U.S. remains the per capita consumption leader for most resources.


Big copper mine near Silver City, New Mexico Oct.11-2016 - bruce witel photo


Overall, National Geographic’s Greendex found that American consumers rank last of 17 countries surveyed in regard to sustainable behavior.


Empty vacation home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California Oct 23-2012 - buce witzel photo


Furthermore, the study found that U.S. consumers are among the least likely to feel guilty about the impact they have on the environment, yet they are near to top of the list in believing that individual choices could make a difference.


Mary's Cabin in Lund, British Columbia Aug 25-2013 - bruce witzel photo


Paradoxically, those with the lightest environmental footprint are also the most likely to feel both guilty and disempowered.


“In what may be a major disconnect between perception and behavior, the study also shows that consumers who feel the guiltiest about their impact—those in China, India and Brazil—actually lead the pack in sustainable consumer choices,” says National Geographic’s Terry Garcia, who coordinates the annual Greendex study.


“That’s despite Chinese and Indian consumers also being among the least confident that individual action can help the environment.”




Readers can discover how they stack up by taking a survey on the Greendex website, www.nationalgeographic.com/greendex.  But brace yourself if you are a typical American: You might not like what you find out about yourself.



Mural in downtown LA - Saint Oscar Romero with cmpesinos and the Risen Christ - francis guenette photo


EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Stay up-to-date on the latest environmental news and information as well as green living tips. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe.



Cheers & happy Easter ~ Bruce


Jacks & Mary-Anne's Zen garden, Aug 23 -2013 - bruce wtizel photo

26 thoughts on “A surprise – my Easter Reflection.

    • Thanks for dropping by last week Otto, and commenting on this Easter post about consumerism. It’s too bad there couldn’t be an upper limit on a persons income, or more realistically, a small tax put on each stock market exchange that would then be used for providing basics necessities like food, water & medicine for the poor. At the least, being more conscious of world consumption patterns and inequity, is a start.

  1. Bruce and Priscilla, I’m of the “embarrass them into behaving” persuasion. In little ways, anyway, like using a canvas “Acupuncture Energetics” bag for shopping, and asking cashiers what percentage of customers use re-usable bags. I can be a ham and like a captive audience for my short eco-friendly campaigns. Try to leave everyone smiling. “Tell your bosses customers are complaining about the “I Died and Went to Hell” music at top volume.” The “tell your bosses” puts you in alliance with the cashier against the decision-makers and lets the front-line workers off the hook.

    Amazing how many people buy extraordinary amounts of bottled water, thinking this is healthier than tap water. If there’s something wrong with tap water and water fountains, we need to fix the problems and cut way back on plastic, especially single-use water bottles. So far, no one is saying this but me, but Coca-Cola makes huge profits on its Dansai bottled water. Let’s do more talking about plastic breakdown products in the environment and the hormonal changes they cause in wildlife and humans. “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story,” by Susan Freinkel, 2011, sure opened my eyes on this. .

  2. Sobering things to consider. For most of us getting off the “bandwagon” is extremely difficult! Some of my colleagues in academia believe that a truly sustainable human population level is about one tenth our current numbers.

    • Missed the comment you made here last week. For me, I am saddened that in the last half a century there has been such a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires with their yachts, jets, and mansions. No one needs such a large amount of money, and the bottom Billion of the planet barely have a dollar a day. I read recently that the gap between the rich and poor is the highest it’s ever been in history, and it’s growing wider. If the rich didn’t consume so wastefully, I believe there would be enough for the total world population to have a decent life. And maybe the Eco-system would have a better chance too. Of course their is a limit to growth – but our whole economic system is based on growth! Time to change the system…. As you can see, I’m passionate about this issue.

  3. Pingback: A surprise – my Easter Reflection. | katharineotto

  4. I found your information interesting and disheartening, and will continue to educate myself via your resources and others. But I am curious to hear why you placed a picture of the risen Christ (with followers and hands of God, one assumes) on the bottom of your post–and who is attributed as the artist? Peace to you.

    • Hello Cynthia – excessive consumerism IS disheartening – I wish people could awaken and change into a Conservor society. Many people strive for this which is HOPEFUL. I am glad you are so open minded about this, Cynthia.

      A note about all my images – if you hover over them with your cursor, a box opens giving more specific information. In regards to the image the Risen Christ near the end of the post – I included it for a few different reasons.
      1) I believe that ecology, social justice and spirituality are connected. 2) It is a sign of hope and awakening.

      I don’t know the artist/s, but it’s a photo that my wife Francis took of a mural in the original downtown center of Los Angeles (Olevera street). It depicts Christ among poor migrants. In the back left corner is Oscar Romero, a Bishop who was assassinated in El Salvador on March 24, 1980. During their Civil War he was defending the rights of the poor and called for a end to repression and murder by the government and military forces (mostly funded and trained by the United States).

      A few days before St. Oscar Romero was murdered he said “I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

      Thanks for your comment and question. Peace to you as well.

  5. Where I live in the southern U.S. there is no public transportation. It’s sad that we are totally dependent on private automobiles. Walking and cycling are dangerous. There are no sidewalks (footpaths). People must walk in the roadway, with traffic flying by at high rates of speed. Granted, I live in a rural area, but even in the nearest large town public transportation is almost non-existent,

    • Here on North part of Vancouver Island I live in a rural area as well. About 10 years ago the powers that be were able to put in a small bus service that travels between a few of our communities. Recently each of the communities have developed foot paths in a few scenic areas – along the beach or sometimes next to the highways. It’s a start. But I don’t know what I’d do without a private vehicle. I’m totally dependent on it. It’s quite the conundrum.

    • I live in Savannah, and public works, including public transportation, is my biggest issue. I’ve done a lot of street-side lobbying on the topics of drainage (instead of malathion to control mosquitoes), wheel-friendly streets and sidewalks, rider-friendly public transit, and even passenger rail. A citizen’s initiative to remove public safety hazards from public lands could do something to “Make America Great Again.” It’s a good idea, but don’t wait for the government to think of it, or you will grow old and die waiting. Better to do the work ourselves and deduct it from property taxes.

  6. When I moved to the US, I discovered the myriad ways in which consumerism changes our society: our values, the way we live, and the way we categorize (for want of a better word) others by what they have.

  7. Way to go, Bro! May I re-blog? I’m a fan of “E Magazine,” but didn’t know about this Q&A forum.

    I take pride in living an ascetic life, but it’s hard to do in our society. It’s not completely our fault that we submit to junk mail, single-use packaging and foreign imports, because we have been deprived of more sustainable choices. Planned obsolescence, for instance. Bottled water is an anathema, eco-wise.

    I’ve blogged and commented more than once about reviving passenger rail, by taking it away from Amtrak and using local or state-licensed franchises to make it more rider-friendly. My educated guess is most of climate change is directly attributable to the American love affair with the private automobile, and the government’s love affair with building highways and pipelines.

    • Yes, Katherine. A testament to this is how in the 1920’s and 30’s the automobile so clogged up American city streets that Street Cars couldn’t keep on schedule.You may already know that in Los Angeles, General Motors gave the final death blow to this excellent public transit system. They purchased it under the false premise of improving it and then they proceeded to dismantle it. They were fined a pittance.

      Your comments reminded me of a quote by the urban planner Jane Jacobs – “Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities.” I was going to include it but forgot and I may add it now.

      As you innfer, the world seems to be in a situation where we haven’t consciously chosen the road were carrening down – it has crept up on us. You have good examples.

      To reiterate aobut our love affair with the automobile. . . I use a truck for my carpentry business and my wife and I have a second vehicle. I feel a bit ashamed to say but we really enjoy a road trip. And I rationalize this by telling myself it has less of a Carbon Footprint than flying. Wow, what complicated times we live in!

      In regards to your re-blogging this post, you are welcome to. But I have noticed when other have re-blogged, the photos come up but not the text – hence, the post doesn’t make sense. If this occurs I suggest you delete the re-blog, and possibly write a short blog with a link to my article. Thank you kindly for your thoughtful comments and the example you give through aware lifestyle choices.


      • Bruce, about the truck . . . if you’re a carpenter, you need a truck for your livelihood. Enjoy road trips while you can, say I. How long will you have the chance, the way things are going? I have a truck, too, a 1987 Dodge Ram gas guzzler, alongside my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. Trucks are practical, when they are working, which mine isn’t, right now. Needs a starter, I think. But maintenance is yet another responsibility that comes with owning vehicles.

  8. I’m not surprised that wealthy nations are taking the biggest portions of everything. What does surprise me is the audacity of people in leadership to say that this is not a problem, this is as it should be….and what makes us “great”. That I find utterly astonishing and completely incomprehensible.

    • Hi Priscilla. For some people It’s as if greatness equals how big and hard of a footprint they have, not how soft and small. We saw this so horribly a few days ago with the U.S. administration dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever. Einstein once said – “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” With that dreadful thought, let’s keep working for a different world. I hope you’re having a good long weekend.

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