Miriam Leitao at PostGlobal

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. She is also a commentator on Globo TV Network and runs her own blog, www.miriamleitao.com, hosted at Globo online at www.oglobo.com.br. She was awarded Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize in 2005. Close.

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. more »

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There’s No Free (Prosperous) Lunch

The Current Discussion: In the future, global prosperity will present more of a threat than poverty, according to a recent Post op-ed. Is this just rich-American rhetoric, or is the world really getting too prosperous for its own good?

The basic dilemma is this: Should the world follow the United States’ pattern of consumption to raise its people’s standards of living? Or should the world, including the United States, look for another way of life?

The thesis about the U.S. level of consumption has been misunderstood. It is only in part correct. Yes, Americans have achieved a high level of development while many other people have been under-consuming. Yes, if we succeed in combating poverty all over the world and in raising standards of living, the use of economic goods and natural resources may become unsustainable within our lifetimes. If the pattern to be followed is the typical American pattern of over-consumption and wastefulness, that prosperity will lead us to a path full of terrible dilemmas and risks.

The dream of ending starvation and lowering infant mortality has to be fulfilled. It is within reach as it has never been before. To do it, though, all rich and middle-income nations should work together in mitigating the side effects of development in the world climate.

We have already mastered productivity and we now make more goods using fewer labor hours. It’s about time we learned a second, similar lesson: to produce more with less damage to nature.

In this regard, the last years have been both encouraging and disappointing. For the first time the world is starting to show some awareness of the risk that threatens the planet; many initiatives from the NGOs, governments, multilateral organization are trying to find a way towards a more sustainable way of life. But at the same time, the U.S. refuses its role as a natural leader in this process of changing the pattern of development. It is not enough to say that the U.S., with 5% of world population, consumes more only because the U.S. is more developed, and the others less so. This is just an excuse, and a sorry one. The U.S. has a moral obligation to look carefully at how Americans are wasting the life sources in this planet. It must lead the process of changing that way of life before it is too late. The alternative is to prohibit the poor to dream about the end of poverty.

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» Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada | Ms. Leitao writes " But at the same time, the U.S. refuses its role as a natural leader in this process of changing the pattern of developme...
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