I have said in previous posts that I think the only viable option to the environmental cataclysm we are hurtling toward is population reduction. The reason, however, that population is the big problem as I see it is that, generally, western society (or more broadly, developed and indeed developing nations) does not want to change. The public does not have anywhere near enough will to change our way of life to slow down the course on which we're headed. Concluding that nothing can be done, though, is a little defeatist and fatalistic, I admit.
In fact, with the global economy in its current state, now might be just the time for us to start moving as a society toward a less goods-based way of life. Until recently, North American life has been driven by consumerism - the more you and I buy, the better the economy does, and the wealthier you and I become, basically. After the 9-11 attacks, GWBush infamously asked for "your continued particpation and confidence in the American economy." In other words, if we continue to buy stuff, our economy will keep running as it always has, and we'll be okay, both in terms of our standard of living and in terms of our level of psychological comfort, going on as much as possible as if nothing had happened. Seven years later, though, "business as usual" caused one of the most colossal failures of global markets ever, and inarguably the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression (stay tuned for a future post about the Depression itself).
So far, though, the majority of the effort to recover has been to "get things back on track," trying to return us to the very system (primarily of credit and debt) that crippled us in the first place. We have such short memories!
Common sense (and physics) tells us that we cannot have unlimited resources on a finite planet. Last year sometime a friend of mine sent me a link to this chart which estimates how much of everything we have left on Earth to use before it just runs out. It's conjecture and it's based on some scientific data, but even if have twice as long as it tells us, we're still going to run out, whether it's in our own lifetime or that of our children or that of our grandchildren. And so we need to curb our consumption, one way or another, whether that means each of us consuming less, or fewer of us on the planet consuming the same amount.
Our culture feeds us *so* many messages about the relationship between who we are, what we're worth as people, and what we have, that many of us get hoodwinked into believing it. If we could figure out how to free ourselves from our stuff - to be satisfied with what we have - then we as a species might have a very different, much richer future ahead of us.