Affluence is the economic state of having considerable wealth relative to the majority of the general population. Throughout history the powerfully affluent have been responsible for wars, disease, pollution, waste, over consumption of resources, and upsetting the balance of nature. Affluence, by its very nature, perpetuates poverty to provide cheap goods and labor to serve its many pleasures. Wherever affluence exists pollution and poverty are sure to fester where resources, natural or human, exist to feed its voracious appetite for extravagance and convenience.
Modern man has existed for some 200,000 years, the oldest fossil being about 160,000 years old found in Ethiopia. Modern man lived in caves and small villages until about 10,000 years ago when he started developing large organized communities thus becoming civilized. So for the first 190,000 years modern man lived in small communities of perhaps 5-20 people with little class distinction between individuals, truly communal living where food and other resources were equally shared.
Then wealth and affluence started to evolve as certain individuals acquired more possessions than others as social groups started to grow larger and leaders started to accumulate more power and property. As civilizations evolved, social hierarchy and those with and without material wealth and power started to increasingly segregate to a peak during the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Chinese Emperors. At this point those rulers at the very top decided that they were selected to rule by their Gods giving them godlike authority over their dominion. This evolved further when Kings inheriting divine birth rights keeping such power and wealth in their family. These powerful rulers and their entourage were the ultimate in affluence. They were supported by a large population of very poor working class or slaves who provided goods and services directly to the King and if free paid extravagant taxes to the King so he and his entourage could continue living lavish lifestyles.
Power by its very nature demands an abundant of resources to support i’s pleasures. The more affluent people become the more disproportionate they consume and live in luxury and wasteful extravagance. In modern times such as here in the U.S. we have a very large middle class that lives an affluent lifestyle compared to most of the world. We enjoy among the highest overall standard of living in the world making us huge consumers. To feed our affluent lifestyle we buy inexpensive goods mainly from China where the labor rates are far lower than ours and where manufacturing infrastructures and resources are well-developed. Because these goods are so affordable we buy far more than we would if made here.
But the energy and natural resources needed to manufacture these goods is very high. Considering that the world’s population has increased from less than 1 billion prior to the Revolutionary War to over 7 billion 250 years later, and today’s technology uses far more natural resources and energy than technologies 250 years ago, earth’s supply of resources is being depleted at an extraordinary rate and greenhouse gases and pollution are astronomically higher. Even though the US population represents 4.3% of the world’s population we consume about 25% of the earths resources, 5 times the average of the rest of the world. We produce 15.5% of the worlds greenhouse gases compared to China’s 22.7% but almost 5% of China’s emissions are to make goods for our consumption. But China’s population of 1.2 billion compared to our 300 million is 4 time larger, so per capita we are by any measure by far the highest contributors to pollution and greenhouse gases.
Our affluence plays the most havoc upon nature. Even those of us who take care to control our extravagance consume and pollute far more than the average person worldwide. Yet our appetite for the next great gadget, car, and creature comforts continues unabated.