A wide disparity exists in the consumption of the world's product between the North and the South. Countries in the South cannot expect to follow the same development path as have those in the industrialized countries of the North. Alternative paths must be identified and followed.
Global industrialization over the past 200 years since the Industrial Revolution has followed a relatively similar pattern in country after country. The so-called developing countries of the South are continuing to follow the path of the industrialized or developed countries of the North. Even the very terms “developing” and “developed” connote two stages of industrial development, with the transition from developing to developed occurring when a country has achieved a certain level of industrialization.
There is, however, a real question as to whether the earth and its resources can sustain the transition of all the world's developing countries into developed or industrialized countries, particularly considering energy and other nonrenewable resource use and also waste production. This chapter outlines the consequences of present levels of industrial waste and energy consumption, as projected into the future. It suggests that present levels and patterns of consumption and industrialization in the developed countries are inappropriate and indeed impossible for the developing countries to follow. Hence it will be necessary to look at new and alternative technologies, industries, and development paths in order for the poor countries of the South to offer a better quality of life to their present and future generations.
The world's population, at present just over 5 billion people, could double within the next 40 years, and could stabilize at roughly 14 billion people (base case) or much higher if fertility rates decline more slowly (Figure 1). The fastest population growth is in urban areas, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.