Environment

Is working hard bad for the environment?

Is working hard bad for the en...
The UN recommends working fewer hours for the good of the environment
The UN recommends working fewer hours for the good of the environment
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The UN recommends working fewer hours for the good of the environment
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The UN recommends working fewer hours for the good of the environment

In a welcome sacrifice for the good of the planet, a United Nations' International Resource Panel study found that saving the environment may require people work fewer hours in the future. A growing middle class has led to a rapid pace of raw material extraction around the globe, which has tripled over the past 40 years. Thus, more efficient use of the planet's remaining resources is necessary to stave off grave environmental consequences.

In other words, the global economy will need to make huge improvements in material and energy efficiencies in order to provide housing, food, electricity, water and modern consumer goods to a growing world population with aspirations for middle-class comforts. To address this issue, policy recommendations from the study call for transformative changes that include a reduction in work hours, as well as to price raw materials in a way that accounts for the social and economic costs of extraction.

The study provides a coherent account of material use globally and for every nation, and covers 40 years of extraction, trade and consumption of biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metallic minerals. From 1970 to 2010, world-wide extraction of materials grew from 22 billion tons annually to around 70 billion tons, with non-metallic minerals used in construction the fastest growing.

Since 2000, material use has accelerated due to increasing demand from China and other Asian economies, while efficiency has declined. Part of the reason is the shift in production away from material-efficient economies such as Japan, South Korea and Europe.

At the same time, a substantial gap remains in the standard-of-living between North America and Europe and the rest of the world, as the richest countries consume 10 times the materials as the poorest countries, on average. Though a number of developed countries have committed to decoupling economic growth and well-being from rising consumption, achieving this by increasing the circular nature of their economies through remanufacturing, recycling and reuse.

Even so, on its current trajectory, the estimated population of nine billion by 2050 would require about 180 billion tons of materials annually, roughly three times current consumption levels. This will reportedly result in continued climate change and overall environmental degradation, including greater loss of biodiversity, more soil erosion, and more waste and air pollution, as well as decrease human health and quality of life.

Source: United Nations' International Resource Panel

9 comments
Galymax
The study doesn't blame long working hours, it only suggests to 'compensate productivity gains with more free time' to balance production efficiency and employment rates. Presumably the authors of the study just try to escape the blame for what would be the most likely consequence of greater productivity: less jobs.
piperTom
There is a huge leap of logic between a potential shortage of materials and "you need to work less". Also, a scarcity of some resource is handled by the free market through the price mechanism. As prices rise, people naturally conserve, find alternatives, and reuse what we have. There is no need for panic and certainly no need for you to knock off work at 2 PM. By the way, the past 100 years already seen "huge improvements in material and energy efficiencies". The projection of threefold increase in material usage is based on what? Perhaps on a United Nations style grasp of economics, where people don't react to incentives?
Wolf0579
So this must be why the .01% are so enthusiastically destroying the middle classes of the world.
WB1200
UN= Useless Nation So the answer is less hours (more poverty) and more expensive goods and services (again; more poverty but not for these elites). They don’t take into consideration that when humans are faced with adversity we always come up with technological ways to overcome them. In 40 to 50 years from now it will probably be common to get raw materials from the moon or asteroids or un-tapped terrestrial sources or who knows where else. I’m sick of these pointy headed elites that have no knowledge of history or people’s ability to overcome adversity; that’s what makes us stronger & more knowledgeable.
Nelson
A booming economy is bad for the environment.
Howe
Source: United Nations. hahahaha, I love a good laugh.
Viktor
Working hard isn't the problem. Too many babies is the problem. The research panel is a dud.
habakak
There is a scarcity of exactly which raw materials in the world? Have they not noticed the near-depression in mining and materials due to over-abundance the past 3 years or so? There is more than enough raw materials for 20 billion people. We need to solve the energy problem which will solve most of the down stream problems. Energy solves water which solves most other problems. And more clean and renewable energy at lower cost enables more recycling which reduces the need for more mining. Ocean bio-diversity is something I'm more concerned that we are extracting more than gets replaced. But fish-farming is expanding rapidly and I would think in 20 years it would be much less of an issue. In virtually all respects technology is improving leading to better technology which improves efficiency. The clean energy revolution is just getting started and it's impact will be vast and hugely positive.
amazed W1
Viktor is so right. The panel would be far more useful to us if all its efforts went into encouraging population control, preferably by conception control by all available means, chemical, device and of course abstinence! Overpopulation lies behind most of the problems the UN was set up to solve, from civil wars to malnourishment and enslavements of all kinds, and is considerably to blame for global warming.