Lavish lifestyles

GROWING awareness over the last decade of the negative consequences of industrialisation in the South, led to many forms of cooperation between environmental organisations in the North and the South, including campaigns against large- scale World Bank projects and destruction of rain forests in Latin America. But Northern NGOs have either avoided or ignored the question of overconsumption in their own countries. This mental fog may now lift.

The Friends of the Earth (FOE), Netherlands, have launched a campaign called "Sustainable Development", which raises the moot question: What will the Dutch consumption- level be when the needs of all the people of the Earth are taken into account? The FOE campaign demands introspective questioning on unsustainable lifestyles in the world's effluent societies. "The campaign has raised a favourable response from environmental activists in Germany and the Scandinavian countries," says a FOE activist. On the other hand, the subject of consumption patterns is not even on the agenda of US environmentalists.

The campaign argues that Northern consumers no longer have the right to consume exorbitantly at the expense of other world citizens. All citizens, in other words, must have equal environmental space, as argued by Third World environmental groups like the Centre for Science and Environment. But, given the fact that one-fourth of the world's population is consuming three-fourths of the produce, a fair redistribution implies a reduction of almost 70 per cent of northern consumption levels. Will such a message be acceptable to Northern consumers?