how much of the earth's resources do you use?
April 19, 2004 12:05 PM   Subscribe

MY high score is 140!
31.6 planets consumed!
posted by evilelf at 12:13 PM on April 19, 2004

I came out with 2.5 which is pretty depressing since I live with two others in a small apartment, rarely eat meat, have no car, never fly and ride 80 miles a week on my bike to work. poop! :(
posted by n9 at 12:16 PM on April 19, 2004

If everyone lived like me, we would need 5.1 planets.

(I had a score of 22, against the national average of 24.)
posted by Prospero at 12:24 PM on April 19, 2004

We've done this at least twice, I think. May have been different URLs, though.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:35 PM on April 19, 2004

An oldie but goodie.
posted by languagehat at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2004

languagehat found the most recent. Here's the first.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:37 PM on April 19, 2004

woot! 14! 3.1 planets consumed!

n9: better turn off the computer, dig a well, and try to spend most of your life in stasis.
posted by Stynxno at 12:37 PM on April 19, 2004

2.1 planets consumed here in the US.

1.0 planets, if I was back home in India.

Man, I'm getting spoilt.
posted by Gyan at 12:41 PM on April 19, 2004



Considering : I eat meat at nearly meal, Travel 200 miles a week (75% in carpool), have a wife and kid in a 1500 square foot house, that seems

It also seems to cost 2 acres JUST to have a free standing house with running water, as opposed to a free standing house without.
posted by psychotic_venom at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2004

4.9, if everyone lived like me we'd need 2.7 planets. Drats.
posted by dabitch at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2004

This might be more meaningful if there was a companion quiz showing what a person is producing. Decrying the amount of input is meaningless without comparing it to the amount of output. Who is more harmful to the world -- someone who uses ten acres to support only himself or a farmer who uses 40 acres to grow crops to support 10 people? How would you compare the crack dealer who doesn't own a car to a rural mailman who drives his car 50 miles a day? Is that electrified home in Texas better or worse than the rustic lodge in Colorado that gets used only a couple months per year?

Why don't we simply multiply everyone's height by their weight to come up with a footprint -- that figure would carry as much useful information as this quiz does.
posted by joaquim at 12:50 PM on April 19, 2004

You have to answer every question in the most conservative fashion, excepting one in order to get under the 1.0 planets ratio.

on preview : dabitch, at 4.9 ACRES, we'd just need 1.1 planets.
posted by psychotic_venom at 12:51 PM on April 19, 2004

6.1 planets, down from 6.5 two years ago. At this rate, I'll be eating berries and living without running water in no time.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:52 PM on April 19, 2004

4.5 planets, or 10,650 pound inches
posted by grateful at 1:01 PM on April 19, 2004

It is flawed joaquim but not in the way you say. The test is to see how many earths would be required to support an entire global population that consumed as you do. Individual production has nothing to do with it.

Production (or rather the productive capacity of the earth) is only - I assume - factored in on a global scale.

But yeah overall the test is slightly pointless, serving simply to tell anyone privileged enough to get on the net and take it that, "gosh, wow! Your rate of consumption is too high. Naughty."
posted by pots at 1:04 PM on April 19, 2004

I'm at 7.1 hectares, but here in Canada we've got more than enough unused land to cover our gluttonous behinds.
posted by Evstar at 1:06 PM on April 19, 2004

12 acres, and we'd need 2.8 planets. At least I use 1/2 what the average for us is (not driving is probably the big difference).
posted by amberglow at 1:07 PM on April 19, 2004

the average around here is "6.6 GLOBAL HECTARES PER PERSON", where's the national average 24? acres or hectares? *dizzy*
posted by dabitch at 1:13 PM on April 19, 2004

I got 2.4 planets this time around; I don't remember what the score was last time around, but it can't have gotten any worse as I no longer have a car. Air travel is awfully expensive on this quiz; I changed my answer from 25 yearly flight hours to zero, leaving the other answers unchanged, and the score went down to 1.9.

Decrying the amount of input is meaningless without comparing it to the amount of output.

What does "output" mean, on a planetary scale? All we do is convert stored sunlight from one form to another. The earth only absorbs so much solar energy, and only converts so much of that into a form we can use. Any energy we use, beyond that quantity, is deficit spending.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2004

5.5 planets to support me... Must have been the fact that I live alone in a 1500 sq. ft. apartment that did me in, since otherwise I live quite green.
posted by orange swan at 1:25 PM on April 19, 2004

All we do is convert stored sunlight from one form to another

Not entirely true, as the energy acquired from radioactive sources doesn't owe much to sunlight. Same goes for tidal/wave power and geothermal power.

...of course, all of those owe something to the sun at SOME point, inasmuch as without the sun there wouldn't be a planet in the first place. Gravity is truly marvellous.

And, realistically, you're still right. It's not like anyone uses U-235 to power their car. At least, I hope not.
posted by aramaic at 1:30 PM on April 19, 2004

The test is to see how many earths would be required to support an entire global population that consumed as you do. Individual production has nothing to do with it.

This assumes that resource production/consumption is a zero sum game, which it isn't.

For example, consider global resource production in the year, say, 1604. The total global production 400 years ago was only a fraction of that necessary to support the current global population, especially given current standards of living. Nevertheless, the current population is as it is. How can this be? The exercise discussed here seems to suggest that in order for population to grow so dramatically, we must have gained a few extra planets at some point. This is clearly not the case, however.

As population increases, the number of productive units increases. Similarly, technology allows each unit to produce more efficiently. Hence, more people means more production means more consumable resources.

Looking at pure dollar amounts, the average American consumes orders of magnitude more than the average sub-Saharan African subsistence farmer. But the American also produces much more: maybe not in terms of food (specialization is one means of increased productivity), but in terms of accounting, or pharmaceutical research, or retail sales, or whatever.

There are still vast regions of the planet that rely on primitive farming practices. Similarly, industrializing nations have a long way to go towards adapting the most efficient (and cleanest) industrial production technologies. There are emerging technologies available to harness energy resources outside of the traditional fossil fuels, allowing energy production to increase dramatically. Even in the United States, we have yet to take full advantage of the most sophisticated existing pollution abatement technologies.

To assume that the planet is producing at maximum is unspeakably naive.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:45 PM on April 19, 2004

Currently, I'm at 3.7 planets with a score of 16. Ask again in a couple of months and I'm sure my rank will jump up quite a bit. My family of 3 is living in an 1,100 sq ft apartment since we just moved to a new city. Now that my husband has also found work, we'll be looking to buy that free-standing, single family home with running water in which to plant our meat-eating, car driving butts.
posted by onhazier at 1:45 PM on April 19, 2004

I've totally screwed my score from last time by flying for 60 hours & driving 9000 miles in 6 months. 3.4 from 1.4! When I get home I'm going back to my bike & keeping my head down...
posted by i_cola at 1:54 PM on April 19, 2004

[Score in planets]
posted by i_cola at 1:55 PM on April 19, 2004

If everyone lived like me, they'd need four planets.

So, let's get moving on that Mars thing, okay? Tomorrow, the Solar Sytem!
posted by majcher at 2:45 PM on April 19, 2004

So they talk and talk about how we'd need X number of additional planets, but time you suggest actually getting more planets they start whining about what a waste the space program is. I tell you there's no winning with some people. Guess we'll have to learn to digest gravel or something.

(On preview, Majcher beat me to it.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:48 PM on April 19, 2004

I'm at 3.4 hectares/1.9 planets and I live in freaking Tokyo. I don't live all that conservatively, except for having no car, and a small place.

You guys are all pigs! <grin>
posted by bashos_frog at 3:04 PM on April 19, 2004

Heh... 2.1 planets in my case. Doesn't that mean we just need less people on this one planet?
posted by dazed_one at 3:39 PM on April 19, 2004

Hmm, 3.7 planets, although I don't feel that I live wastefully. I did come out below the average for my country, so at least I can feel smug about that.

Regardless of the true validity of the test, it is more useful as a comparison than as an actual test of how much you consume. Trying to actually calculate how many planets worth of resources each person consumes would, I imagine, be so mind-numbingly complicated that it would itself consume many planets worth of resources. Comparing how much you yourself use in resources compared to the rest of the world is valid enough, provided you don't try and extrapolate anything beyond that.
posted by dg at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2004

posted by majcher at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2004



psychotic_venom, your theory is wrong, I did not answer the minimum on all but one question.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2004


posted by WLW at 6:32 PM on April 19, 2004

3.7 planets, which while still statistically depressing isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

It also seems to cost 2 acres JUST to have a free standing house with running water, as opposed to a free standing house without.

It probably takes in the amount of land required in the catchment/reservoirs/treatments works etc. to supply you with 21st century plumbing.
posted by Jimbob at 6:55 PM on April 19, 2004

Doesn't that mean we just need less people on this one planet?

Sounds like a plan to me.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:02 PM on April 19, 2004

erm. fewer people, right. I prefer grammatically correct genocidal insinuations.
posted by n9 at 7:10 PM on April 19, 2004


I require more planets. Submit, or be destroyed.
posted by moonbiter at 7:16 PM on April 19, 2004

To assume that the planet is producing at maximum is unspeakably naive.

On the other hand, it's fucking stupid to believe that your average beef-eatin' 'Mericun is really somehow indirectly helping the environment with his 'high productivity.'

"It seems that white men, upon encountering the vast and rich midcontinental prarie, called the prairie a desertreally believe that what they were seeing was a desert? It is a matter of record that that is what they said they saw."
-marilyn frye, 'the politics of reality'

(2 or 2.5 planets, depending on whether I cross an ocean in a given year.)
posted by kaibutsu at 7:37 PM on April 19, 2004

"It's not like anyone uses U-235 to power their car."

Nitpicking here, of course, but:
If one uses an electrical car running on electricity from a nuclear powerplant one is technically powering the car with uranium. The same is true for hydrogen cars using hydrogen generated from this type of electricity.
posted by spazzm at 7:38 PM on April 19, 2004

mr_roboto : It may be that the planet is a zero sum game.

Intenisve and highly productive farming techniques don't come without a price - they usually take a lot of labour (human, animal or machine) - or they suck a lot out of the soil. You can put back in fertilisers, but that still takes other resources to produce, including fossil fuels for transport. (It is also not good for the health of the soil - many of those "primitive" techniques are far more sustainable, especially when one is thinking of millenia, than North American techniques.)

We only have the one planet - until we get a new one, we have to assume that it is all we have, for our own sakes.
posted by jb at 8:20 PM on April 19, 2004

3.3 Planets (15 footprint)

Not bad, considering I have a car and drive a lot. Thank goodness that 2.3 people somewhere else will die tonight for my consumption.

I don't really mean that. I feel bad now.
posted by crazy finger at 9:18 PM on April 19, 2004

Sorry, that Frye quote should have gone like this:

"It seems that white men, upon encountering the vast and rich midcontinental prarie, called the prairie a desert. They conceived a desert, they took it to be a desert, and a century later, it is a desert (a fact which is presently somewhat obscured by the annual use of megatons of chemical fertilizers). Did they really believe that what they were seeing was a desert? It is a matter of record that that is what they said they saw."

Which is to say, 'yeah! what jp said! but with authority!'
(Stupid Internet, eating the important words.
*shakes fist angrily at god*

posted by kaibutsu at 12:02 AM on April 20, 2004

3.2 planets (14 acre footprint)

But if everyone lived like me, we'd only need one planet, as per my plan of systematically killing off the slower, weaker and generally less-desirable members of the global population until our resources are balanced.
posted by Down10 at 12:47 AM on April 20, 2004

(Happy Hitler's Birthday, BTW)
posted by Down10 at 12:48 AM on April 20, 2004

Footprint 12, 2.8 planets. I don't feel too bad about using half the resources that the average American does.

It's because I ride a motorcycle all the time (43 mpg) and conserve electricity, probably... because I love me dem cheezeburgers.

Just think how much more resources we'd have if everyone in the US cut their consumption in half. Especially of petroleum.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:01 AM on April 20, 2004

Thanks for the good quote, kaibutsu. I've actually been taking some classes on agriculture and the environment this last year, but it's very hard to pin point exact references. Looking at agriculture from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, there are myths people tend to hold, including scholars, which are shown with empirical research to not be true.

"Slash and burn" agriculture, for instance, properly called swidden agriculture, is not damaging to the soil when carried out as it has been traditionally. Conklin (1957) is an early report to the FAO that describes how Hanunoo (in the Phillipines) swidden culture actually protects and enriches the soil in their mountain fields, where Western style cultivation would never be sustainable (It's also a good read). Modern mechanised and chemical agriculture is very productive, but I worry that little thought is being given to the next few centuries of productivity.

The question is how to keep productivity at a similar level while improving sustainability - my mind goes towards more labour intensive, rather than machine or chemical intensive, methods, but that would be impossible with our current social organisation, as farm workers are not paid decently already.

The funny thing is, the more I learn about the environment from people who study it for a living, the more I learn that all of these issues are very complex, and regionally and socially specific. There are no simple answers - but there are simple steps we can take. If you are North American, you will have a larger footprint than elsewhere, but you can reduce that footprint. Myself, I'm feeling guilty about flying now - I promise to take the bus to Europe to work, as soon as Greyhound gets a route there. :)
posted by jb at 11:22 AM on April 20, 2004

Americans will cut their consumption of resources if they're incentivized to do so. For example, lots of people would gladly abandon the suburbs if cities could crush crime, cut taxes, and guarantee access to good schools full of motivated and disciplined children. Why aren't ecologists out there demanding "Three Strikes" laws and school vouchers?
posted by MattD at 12:30 PM on April 20, 2004

[theorized thought]
If we don't use our resources will some be lost due to natural disasters. Like a volcanic eruption that destroys a whole mountain. Which makes me ask; does the earth's core replenish it's resources? Any geologist add some light on this?

2.5 planets, only because my work & home are very close and all my daily needs can be obtained on my commute from and to. But taking the bus or riding a bike will waste my energy. If you have been to Dallas, Tx you will understand.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:48 PM on April 20, 2004

Scored 3.5 planets. My goal last year was trying to lower it a planet, 2.5 which I've failed
posted by thomcatspike at 12:52 PM on April 20, 2004

probably yelling in an empty room at this point, but here goes...

MattD: Hm. I suppose you don't want to admit that giving up one's car addiction and saving over $2000 a year as a result will more than make up for the supposedly high city taxes? (I also disagree with the other statements, but they are essentially derails and will be ignored.)

I don't hold nearly your optimistic view of the free market. The American car culture came about through a vicious series of buyouts of public transportation, allowed through political manipulation. Essentially, the car companies closed down American public transit with family money and money made in the luxury market, and when people had no choice but to buy cars to get around town, started reaping incredible profits. Thanks to leaning on the feds to set up the federal highway system, they didn't even have to foot that part of the bill. And then comes the advertising and cultural epidemics of the 50's and 60's which turned the middle class out of the cities into the suburbs. That migration was more an issue of imagined incentives (a happy life in happy oaks suburb!) than any kind of rational decision.

Moral: If you can put in enough economic and political pressure, and have a good ad firm on your side while you're at it, the rational interest of the public doesn't matter in the least. Suburban fear cycles upon itself to add to the nation's problems; fear of crime, poor education, and lack of money are the things to address first. So long as the white boy growing up private schooled is too scared out of his wits (too comfortable) to question his lifestyle, question his sources of information, start killing his addictions, there can't be any change. Gotta kill the fear.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:01 PM on April 20, 2004

Kaibatsu -- there may well have been some scheming in the 1950s and 1960s to move people out of the suburbs, but that doesn't really explain why people are still moving out of cities, in vast numbers, as soon as they start families. These are not urban-phobes, these are people who love living in Washington, Chicago, New York, etc., but regard it as completely non-viable once they have kids and all the related needs and expenses.

And solving the "fear" of crime, taxes and bad schools isn't the answer, because it supposes that the crime, taxes and bad schools don't exist, when they are manifest and real costs. Take Manhattan: the nicest neighborhoods have crime rates double or triple the rates in an average suburb, the entire borough of over 1 million has less than ten decent public elementary schools, zero decent public middle schools, and one decent public high school. A two earner couple with an $150,000 income will incur $5,000 in city income tax surcharge which they'd encounter living in no suburb.
posted by MattD at 2:31 PM on April 20, 2004

MattD: There is something to stereotypes growing greater than the reality - I live in at the heart of a small American city famed for its high crime rate, and I find it very pleasant and safe. But it is not that people should all move into cities - its about how we design our homes.

There is no reason that suburbs could not be built with a nice moderate level of denisty - with a small commerical core, for instance, which would be very pleasant - you could walk to the grocery store. You can have more commuter trains so that people can get from those suburbs downtown without having to drive or pay for parking. These are the first places to start. I think this would improve quality of suburban life, in addition to helping our planet.

As for urban crime and poor schools - both come from the same causes - poverty and alienation, neither of which are easily solved. You would probably have to start with the community - anything else would just cause further alienation. You'd maybe control the symptoms, but never improve the situation.

I understand your concerns, but if neighborhoods were more mixed, that would improve things - middle class parents tend to be more articulate, more demanding and have more social and cultural capital to pressure schools to keep up quality. But they worry that their children will be disadvantaged, and flee. I think this disadvantage is more fear than real. I went to a mixture of urban public schools, some good, some not so good, and then to a middle tier state university. I am now at an Ivy league graduate school. My mother worked for a non-profit literacy organisation, and they found that the greatest determinant of children's literacy is not their school, but their parents' literacy. She said the best thing parents could do for children was to take them to the library weekly
posted by jb at 5:51 PM on April 20, 2004


I feel fuzzy.
posted by ed\26h at 1:32 AM on April 21, 2004

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