You bring up some very good points Egg, ones which we as designers should always keep in mind. I’d like to comment on a few of them as I’ve spent some time to ponder them as well.
To begin, there is the issue of living in a society which damages its environment through over-consumption. I totally agree with you that at humanity’s current rate we will either run out of resources or destroy the planet in short order. This is mostly due to the societies which inhabit the “obscenely wealthy Western hemisphere”. However, I would like you to consider the immediate alternatives, soviet style communism or a return to nature. I don’t feel that either would be beneficial or widely accepted.
Communism was proven to be even more wasteful than capatilism. That is because there was no customer driven reason to improve. If you look at the soviet industry before its collapse you will see horribly polluting factories producing junky products which often times were also horribly polluting. Our society, albeit slowly, encourages (Honda Insight) and forces (EPA) industry to lessen its impact on our environment.
A return to nature isn’t acceptable to me, and probably not 99% of the population. It’s so safe and fun to live in developed society and I feel fortunate to be part of that.
As with all things there is a third way, you yourself even allude to it:
“The issue now, some here say, is not that we overconsume but we don’t reuse properly.”
I feel that we, as citizens, need to demand that our governments and companies continue to lessen their impact on our environment. Part of this is through re-use of products. Other opportunities exist in renewable energy, recycling, and creating products with longer life cycles. Of course, all of this is dependent on producing yet more products!
That is part of the reason I said, “we need and want more products and designs”. The other part is that design and engineering is always improving. I think everyone wants a new medical device which can save lives, even if its production puts a ton of CO2 in the air and contains hazardous unrecyclable materials. Also, some of us would love to have a more ergonomic keyboard which would make our typing faster and more comfortable. That is what design is to me.