7.2 Social Problems in more economically developed countries



7.2 Social Problems in more economically developed countries

Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.

Vicotr Lebow (1995) [see reference 11]

As well as social problems relating to sustainability being present in less economically developed countries as outlined above, the rise in income and technological advances have also caused social problems of a very different nature in more economically developed countries. Although the population of the richer countries may have access to clean water, health care and shelter, other problems have arrived specifically with the increase wealth and associated technology implemented by the rise of engineering knowledge.

The general trend of increased wealth has been that of increased consumption - of food, fossil fuels, materials and goods. The environmental impacts of this increased consumption have been covered in previous chapters, but there are social problems too.

Firstly, the pursuit of wealth as the primary concern for individuals leads to increased stress, breakdown of family and community and a spiritual chasm. Rates of divorce are rapidly increasing in more economically developed countries and families are not as close as in previous generations, as children will be more likely to move away from parental homes seeking economic betterment.

A general trend is of individualism, where people place themselves at the centre of importance which can lead to mistrust of others, fear, and isolation. Mental illness is also on the rise in more economically developed countries and it could be argued that this isolation is one contributing factor.

Health issues were covered in the food chapter; cases of diabetes, obesity, heart attacks and cancers are all on the rise, caused by poor lifestyle associated with rich and excessive food and lack of exercise often attributed to computer addiction or technological innovation reducing physical activity.

People are generally less connected and have less knowledge about nature; children often do not know where food comes from further than the supermarket. The majority of the population live in cities surrounded by concrete and have a lack of access to green space.

The following passage sums up what we should be aiming for but are still far way from:

(We need to) Recognise that people hunger for a world that has meaning and love; for a sense of aliveness, energy and authenticity; for a life embedded in a community in which they are valued for who they deeply are, with all their wants and limitations, and feel genuinely seen and recognised; for a sense of contributing to the good; and for a life that is about something more than just money and accumulating material goods.

[see reference 12]