Environmental Protection vs Economic Growth

 – copyright Knowledge Skills LLP –
General Paper (GP) & O-level English tuition subject specialists
Adapted from K.Higgins

Economy-vs-environment tuition

 

Economic growth and sustainability – are they mutually exclusive?

A popular choice amongst students are environment-based GP questions. And a common question that has appeared many times tests students on evaluating Economic Growth against Environmental protection.

This adapted set of notes highlights some of the general issues and pertinent points :

Overview

The significance of this long recognized  interdependence between Economy and Environment is that there are

A) limits to Earth’s natural resources and thus to any economic growth that depends on them – limits that, if not honored, will gravely affect the future.

B) The anxiety is mounting about our ability to achieve sustainability, that is, our ability to meet our needs while ensuring that future generations will be able to meet their needs. Over the past 40 years, what began as a simple concern for the environment has matured into a widespread apprehension that is causing people from government to private enterprise to take action (for examples of such “action” such as International summits e.g Kyoto Protocol, and Singapore’s own initiatives, please see the other sections)

C) In the last decade, with growing awareness afforded by media and the green movement gaining momentum, nations and non-state actors have placed more emphasis on suggesting that we seek alternatives to economic growth perhaps by measuring well-being in terms other than GDP or profit.

Examples of these would include  . . . [truncated. Filed under Environment content notes]

Some simple but key points that can be raised are outlined below:

1) Limitless economic growth counters sustainability

This simplistic diagram illustrates the interdependence among the growth (reinforcing) loops of consumption, the economy and resource depletion. Material desires instigate purchases intended to bolster significance which fosters more materialism; purchases increase GDP which creates jobs and financial well-being and facilitates more purchases; more production to raise GDP using carbon-based resources also depletes those resources. This interdependence has locked society into what psychologists call a social trap, i.e. pursuit of short-term individual gains which leads to a loss for the group as a whole in the long run. (Source: Financial Whirlpools, Elsevier 2013)

This simplistic diagram illustrates the interdependence among the growth (reinforcing) loops of consumption, the economy and resource depletion. Material desires instigate purchases intended to bolster significance which fosters more materialism; purchases increase GDP which creates jobs and financial well-being and facilitates more purchases; more production to raise GDP using carbon-based resources also depletes those resources
(Source: Karen Higgins, PhD, 2013)

In the short term, the benefits of economic growth are many: the more that businesses and nations grow and profit, the more individuals have jobs, resources and quality of life. At this point in human history, technology has enabled miraculous products, global travel, rapid communication, astonishing efficiencies and unimagined leisure. Economic growth derived from all these technological marvels does indeed feed on itself, as consumers demand more and more

2) The efficacy and use of alternative energy and ‘green processes’

Students should first have an understanding of the benefits and limitations of green energy.

Point could include issues such as the level of efficiency, the cost, and  . . . [[truncated. Filed under Environment content notes]

3) Changing mindsets and attitudes

Although there has been progress in developing alternative energy sources to wean us from carbon-based energy, it is time, many say, to bring an end to growth, to rethink our priorities, to conserve, to reinvent. So rather than trying to save the environment through more science, e.g recycling, more biodegradable products etc, an argument we can raise is that we should instead change our lifestyles. This is an argument which requires an elaboration of . . .[[truncated. Filed under Environment content notes]

4) Opposing points to consider (counter to point 3)

This idealistic solution could work by turning our cultures upside-down and nudging human nature away from materialistic solutions to human longings. But given human nature, how can we convince people to sacrifice for what some of us may never see? Betting our children’s future entirely on altruism is unrealistic at best.

As a student, you should not just rely on anecdotal or subjective feelings on whether this can be achieved. Instead, students should based the feasibility of this argument on real life case-studies. Using such examples and case-studies increases the content marks and the general strength of the argument. Examples would include . . .

4b) Hypocrisy?

It can be argued that it is hypocritical for developed countries to demand that poorer nations make conservation their priority. After all, they became rich in the first place by destroying their environment in the industrial revolution.  Although this is relevant, on its own, it is a tad simplistic. This alone does not give LDCs complete freedom to destroy their own environment to catch up. You need to elaborate on a possible compromise  . . .

 

End of excerpt 

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