Unsustainable Lifestyle

I HAVE BEEN a reader of your magazine for many years. I was therefore disturbed by Jim Rice's Commentary on the threat to U.S. workers of competition from China ("A Blank Check for China?" May-June 2000). This would be entirely appropriate in a workers' union magazine but seems quite out of place in Sojourners. High wages inevitably lead to high levels of resource use. Our planet is already being seriously damaged by having 15 percent of its population earning annual incomes of $9,000 or more. The world cannot possibly support a major part of its people earning American workers wages. Just imagine the impact on the atmosphere of 3 billion more refrigerators, 2 billion more automobiles, and 1 billion more air conditioners for the 8 billion people who are due to occupy our planet by 2020.

If therefore only a small privileged elite of workers can ever expect to earn American-level wages, what should be the Christian response? I am sorry that Sojourners appears to favor the protection of that elite from competition from the bulk of the world's population. This attitude sits uncomfortably with your article on Jubilee 2000 later in the same issue ("An Irresistible Force," by Martin Wroe) with its focus on alleviating world poverty rather than protecting the unsustainable lifestyle of the American worker.

The May-June issue gives the impression of being little concerned with the 3.6 billion people who have incomes of less than $2 per day and rather more concerned about preserving the privileges of the minority who earn more than that every hour.

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