The Economy Vs. Environment Debate

A vision to create a world where economic progress meets environmental conservation is the need of time. One cannot achieve much by just blaming the rampant industrial development witnessed in the 20th and 21st century. Changing the lifestyle for acclimatizing ourselves to the imminent food and energy crisis while still optimizing the economic development are the solutions that we have to act upon.
OpinionFront Staff
Our world as we see it today, has changed a lot in the past 100 years. Industrial revolution of the 19th century laid the foundation for the rise of a new culture 'enriched' by machines and money. By the end of the 19th century, the industrial development had attained a mind-boggling pace which was reflected in the changes that took place thereafter. It is necessary to understand that the growth of economies across the world resulting from use of machines had a great impact on our environment. This kind of development had both positive and negative impacts on the environment. All these changes have led to people taking extreme views on the subject matter.

Economy Vs. Environment: The Conflict

There are pro-environment groups and also there are people who promote economic development. Striking a balance to bring these entities with extreme views on a common platform is the need of time. This article presents information on the seemingly conflicting subjects of economic development and environmental conservation.

Argument 1: Economic progress is said to improve our standard of living. On the other hand, this very progress can lead to degradation of the environment. The differences between these conflicting views are discussed below.

The economy vs. environment debate started few decades ago and it has become quite a popular one in today's world where economic growth is associated with environmental degradation. Points mentioned in the following and subsequent paragraphs should help us find some useful information on this topic.

There is a common belief in our society that preserving the environment is somehow linked with compromising on economic terms. This very belief has fueled the economy vs. environment debate. However, the truth is exactly opposite to this perception of ours. In reality, there is enough that the planet earth can provide us to satisfy our needs. Our economy can prosper and sustain in the long run without putting undue stress on the natural resources. It is the greed to possess and enjoy as many luxuries as possible that has led to the state in which we find ourselves, today. The use of green technologies and renewable sources of energy should solve the energy crisis to a great extent without putting any burden on the existing natural resources. It means the economic growth of the country/region in question doesn't get hampered owing to environmental concerns. There is another misconception that conservation efforts require you to spend a lot of money to be successful. In reality, it is the awareness and a bit of effort on our part that can save many trees and animals on this planet. Even a simple act of planting and nurturing a sapling holds great importance in the process of environmental conservation. Such kind of efforts need to be concentrated in order to bring about a bigger and long-lasting change. The following paragraphs throw light on different aspects of the economy vs. environment debate through explanations about various subjects. Let us start with the topic of environmental ethics. Before getting into the details of environmental ethics, one must be aware about globalization and its impact on the environment to get a better idea of the subject.

Argument 2: Industrialists believe that economic progress gets hampered by putting restrictions on the way their operations are conducted. Environmentalists, on the other hand, demand for impractical rules and regulations to be put on working of industries. The details on these arguments can be found below.

It is actually possible to keep the economy in good shape without harming the environment. More than relying on temporary solutions like issuing monetary packages to solve environmental problems, it is the conscientious approach towards sustainable development that can lead to a better and also an economically prosperous world. Merely imposing rules and setting guidelines won't go a long way in the quest to conserve the environment. It requires a voluntary change in the mindset of people towards judicious use of natural resources. People should actually start thinking about the environment and surroundings as their own property. Only then, can a person truly care about nature. Following such ethics can definitely bring about a positive change.

Few of our environmentalists take an extreme view on the subject of conservation and oppose any and every developmental activity. Such kind of attitude not only blocks the economic progress, but also prevents a reasoned dialog on environmental issues from taking place. No matter how hard we try, there is little possibility that we can completely repair the damage caused to our environment. It is therefore, necessary to become a little more pragmatic. You cannot change the established economic policies and systems overnight. It is however, possible to change our outlook towards the way we go about economic development. The developmental policies should be all-encompassing. Merely human-centric development won't help much in the long run and which is why we have to question the prevalent economic policies that revolve only around human welfare. The next paragraph deals with this crucial aspect of the economy vs. environment debate.

Argument 3: There is a section of people who believe that natural resources of this planet are meant for human use. Environmentalists oppose this view and demand for keeping human intrusion out of the working of nature's laws. Let us find out more on this important point.

The theory of anthropocentrism considers human beings as the most important entity of the world. It is true that humans are placed at a higher intellectual level than other organisms of the planet; however, this intelligence also acts as a double-edged sword. If used properly, the intellect of humans can allow economic progress while still preserving the environment. On the other hand, it can also cause uncontrolled economic development to take place at the cost of precious natural resources. Considering ourselves (humans) as a part of the ecosystem and not the masters can help in bringing about a positive change. With this approach, one can think about caring more for the environment. Humans are not here to rule this planet, but to live in harmony with the environment and all its constituents. It is only with this belief that we can think of maintaining a balance in terms of utilizing and also replenishing (at least to some extent) the natural resources. Our knowledge about the environment, nature's phenomena and their effect on human life has increased manifold in the past few years. This very knowledge has also made us aware that we have earlier caused some irreparable damage to our natural surroundings. For instance: by introducing hybrid crop varieties in our attempt to increase crop production, we have allowed the gene pool of crops (and other plants) to erode. Thousands of wild animals are used in the testing of cosmetic products; a large number of wild animal species have become extinct due to poaching. Many more are on the verge of extinction. Thus, it is very much important to take steps for economic development, considering its impact on the environment. Uncontrolled economic development neither benefits the humans nor does it serve any purpose in the conservation of environment. It is therefore, important to design systems that are self-sustaining. Proper planning on economic fronts can help utilize resources in a better manner; such carefully devised policies won't hamper economic development as well. So, let us get into the details of sustainability through the following paragraph.

In the end, it all comes down to maintaining a balance between economic growth and preserving natural resources. By maintaining the balance between consuming and replenishing back the natural resources, we can create a self-sustaining system. However, it would be a continual process that requires monitoring in order to function properly. It is said that the way you spend your money matters more than the amount you earn. Similarly, in the case of environmental conservation, you should refrain as much as possible from misuse or abuse of the scarce natural resources. You can plant hundred new trees and nurture them, however, once a species becomes extinct, nothing can bring it back. It is therefore, necessary to set up gene banks for conserving the different varieties of plants. This would make it possible to use them when required.

The economy vs. environment debate has gained media attention mainly due to emergence of the phenomenon of global warming. This phenomenon has acted as a catalyst and influenced various campaigns undertaken by environmentalists. It has also helped in drawing attention towards related problems like poaching, deforestation, genetic erosion, etc. Pressing on the issue of 'Global Warming' through a reasoned debate should prove to be useful for the cause of saving the environment while still allowing economic progress. There is no magic wand at our disposal to carry on the monumental task of environmental conservation. It is only through constant vigilance and use of green technologies that we can keep up with the needs of economic progress without further damaging our environment.