What Would Happen If The Entire World Lived Like Americans?

How many natural resources would we need if the entire world’s population consumed them like Americans do? More than we have.

After making an infographic depicting how much space would be needed to house the entire world’s population based on the densities of various global cities, Tim De Chant of Per Square Mile got to thinking about the land resources it takes to support those same cities. “Just looking at a city’s geographic extents ignores its more important ecological footprint,” he writes. “How much land would we really need if everyone lived like New Yorkers versus Houstonians?”

As it turns out, data on the resources gobbled up by cities can be hard to measure–impossibly so, in many cases. But we can measure the resources used by people in entire countries. With a little help from the National Footprint Account from the Global Footprint Network, de Chant was able to show how much space we’d need if the entire world’s population consumed resources in the manner of Bangladesh, India, Uganda, China, Costa Rica, Nepal, France, the U.S.A., and the United Arab Emirates. The graphic compares those countries’ terrestrial sub-footprints, taking into account components like land use, carbon footprint, urbanization, fishing grounds, and more.

The result is, in many ways, the opposite of de Chant’s earlier work. While everyone in the world could fit into a small chunk of America if they all lived in the density of New York, the world wouldn’t survive at all if everyone in the world decided to consume like those New Yorkers (or any Americans). While those of us in the U.S. consume enough resources to take up 4.1 Earth’s worth of resources, the only reason we haven’t eaten through everything is that the rest of the world is balancing us out by using far more reasonable percentages of the Earth.