The early 21st century saw a devastating toll on the Earth's water supplies, natural resources, and ecosystems exacted by a plethora of plastic garbage bags and other cheaply made goods that lead to a "throw away" mentality. Now approximately 1.7 billion people worldwide belong to the "consumer class", the group of people characterized by lifestyles devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods. Excess consumption can be counterproductive: diets of highly processed food and the sedentary lifestyle that goes with heavy reliance on automobiles have led to soaring rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and surging health care costs. Rising consumption has helped create jobs, but as we enter a new century, this unprecedented consumer appetite is undermining the natural systems we all depend on, and making it even harder for the world's poor to meet their basic needs.