Have high levels of resource consumption per person in developed countries, which use 88% of the world's resources and have much larger ecological footprints per person, caused the most serious environmental problems?
It is fair, and accurate, to state much of the environmental degradation that the Earth has endured over the past century is directly attributable to the processes of industrialization and modernization that occurred in the more technologically advanced countries of the world. The invention of the internal combustion engine, which revolutionized transportation, presaged a movement toward ever-greater uses of fossil fuels, the burning of which have contributed – and there are those who would argue with this assertion – to environmental damage of untold proportions, as did the industrial use of chloroflurocarbons in aerosol sprays that were popular during the 1970s, the use of which was directly linked to the shrinkage of the ozone layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out much of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The massive scale use of such manufacturing processes and of fossil fuels and chemicals have been linked to the changes occurring in the Earth’s atmosphere.
While much of the blame for environmental degradation can rest with the advanced countries of the world, however, there is sufficient blame to go around. Less developed countries have certainly contributed to the problems. Slash and burn agricultural practices in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia have decimated previously pristine forests, which produce oxygen, destroying ecosystems while polluting the air of surrounding regions. Uncontrolled slash and burn agricultural practices in the massive Southeast Asian archipelago of Indonesia have repeatedly blotted out the skies over neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, causing increased incidences of respiratory problems in those regions.
Additionally, damming of rivers and streams in less developed countries have contributed to long-term damage to maritime ecosystems by altering the salinity levels of the saltwater areas into which the freshwater rivers and tributaries flow. Finally, less developed countries frequently have severely substandard sewage systems, the flow of which often goes into streams, rivers and lakes, thereby destroying ecosystems while contaminating fresh water supplies.
In conclusion, there is more than enough blame to go around when looking at causes of environmental devastation. Certainly, however, the carbon footprint of the more technologically-advanced countries deserve a seat at the head of that particular table.