Published here March, 2007.
Author Robert Korol Responds
Author Robert Korol was gracious enough to respond to my draft Musings as follows.
I volunteered to write a response to your reasoned comments to the editor of CCE
on our article "Consumption and Waste", published in the May '06 issue of the
CSCE magazine. You correctly point out that the size of the world's population
is a major impediment to our being able to attain a sustainable future. My co-author
and I do not disagree - however, we cannot accept your conclusion pertaining to
western society that "reducing consumption and waste can only have a limited,
even marginal effect."
Indeed, your description of the Wackernagel/Rees text as a "vital work" suggests
that you are familiar with it, and may even agree with some of their analyses!
May I remind you of one section in the book that deals with ecological footprints
of average individuals in different countries. Back in the 90's, the authors of the
book computed the footprint of an east Indian as being 0.38 ha. (page 98),
while a Canadian's was 4.3 ha. The numbers are clearly higher now, but a magnitude
It is clear that we are hogging the world's resources and, in our opinion, have an ethical obligation to share the wealth. In
my own personal view, the poor in most of the developing world are not the beneficiaries of international trade. Indeed, some
argued that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer because of it. However, such is not an area of expertise
of Catherine or myself.
Our intention, in writing the article, was to identify where our profession can make effective contributions to a problem area over which we have some control. We wanted to create an awareness of the situation facing humankind, to generate discussion and evoke interest in finding engineering solutions as needed, i.e. where can civil engineers make a difference?
When it comes to population size - sure we can make assertions! But - I do not feel competent in the areas of family planning and birth control to speak authoritatively on those subjects! Others who are more knowledgeable in these realms need to do their part. Civil engineers can contribute in their own areas of expertise - and I do not want to give the impression that we should sit back and cast blame elsewhere.
With respect, I get the impression from your comments that we should tackle the population problem only, and continue to run down
our resource base, further burden our planet with wastes from lifestyles that add little if anything to quality of life, and carry
on in a "business as usual" mode.
Clearly, we differ in this regard, but having a debate about important questions like this is essential as a first step to changing our collective ways if we are to have any hope of survival as a species on planet Earth.
Yours sincerely, Robert Korol
4. Author Robert Korol by Email 7/7/06