Economic Growth or Environmental Concerns? Both are possible

By Silvia De Angeli

Silvia is doing a double degree program in Communication at John Cabot University of Rome and La Statale of Milan. One adjective: determinate. Two words: language and nature (in all their shades). Three goals: work into media world, valorize and protect the environment and travel. Place of the heart: Lake of Como. 

Nature is not an impediment to economic success, but an essential prerequisite for it. The idea that protecting nature is too costly, an obstruction to economic growth and a barrier to competitiveness is not true. If present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food problems and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached within the next few years! The most probable results will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity, and of course, we will destroy our planet!

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Is it really what we want?

Economic growth or environmental concerns? Both. It is not “either or”, but both. Environmental issues are not separate from any issue we face but actually a component of them all. You cannot combat poverty, disease, or suffering without a stable climate and a healthy environment for which people to live in, and you cannot improve a struggling economy either. In fact, a healthy environment is a prerequisite for a healthy economy. The economy relies on the planet’s ability to provide resources and the necessities of life. If the pollution we produce is reducing its ability to do that, it becomes catastrophic for the economy. In fact, climate change has the potential to send us into one of the biggest global recessions ever.

Too often we think and act as if we were not part of nature. Rather than thinking of ourselves as part of the environment, we think of ourselves as sitting on top of it, managing it. We think there is the human world and the natural world, and we forget that we are ourselves, with all our technology, part of nature.

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So what is the reality? What will happen to our industrial civilization if the supply of natural resources is constantly diminished relative to demand? The answer is obvious. Our prosperity will be threatened. And the solution is obvious. We must change and choice sustainability actions!

Investment must be directed to those technologies that can improve living standards without destroying the natural resource base. We must invest in the rest of the world as well as in ourselves.

I think that environment conservation is still a neglected sector, with excessive emphasis on ‘growth’ in terms of numbers, without focusing on ‘development’ in terms of quality.

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Here is the interview with Sofien Tiba, an expert of business and environmental sustainability from the University of Sfax, Tunisia.

He is a respected international scholar and holds important conferences around the world. Tiba is the author of several articles such as “Literature survey on the relationships between energy, environment and economic growth”. From his words, it is clear the importance of an environmentalist look in the economic field, as a tool for long-term and fair growth.

SILVIA: In your opinion, is there anything more important than the environment?

TIBA: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to discuss what I think is a very important topic. And, no, I can’t imagine anything more important than air, water, soil, energy and biodiversity. These are the things that keep us alive!

SILVIA: And for you, why do people put the economy first, and use it to delineate progress?

TIBA: Because the first and the prominent objective of each policy or development blueprint it’s economic growth. And GDP is the most commonly monetary measure of the market used to look at the economic progress. It’s a simple tool used to approximate the growth rate of national wealth, and however, it’s not a good barometer for economic development. It suffers from a set of drawbacks…

SILVIA: Unfortunately, today wealth is measured only with money and with abstract numbers. We must change this perspective, far from our planet’s good. Sustainable development seems to be the key to combine and connect economic growth with environmental sustainability. How to create, or restore, a balance between them? Can you make some concrete examples?

TIBA: Well…The economic and the environment constitute two pillars of the paradigm of SD. And, do you know? SD is the combination of the economic, environmental and social pillars. In my opinion, in order to obtain a sustained economic path and a sustained environmental quality, we need to invest more in the renewable resources and the friendly technologies to provide and solve the dilemma of growing without polluting. Here it is.

SILVIA: Absolutely. Investments are crucial in this sense. So, to conclude, what do you think are the main tools to get this change? And what are the major limits to this green development today?

TIBA: So, let me think… Nowadays, the renewable resources, like green energy, can make a harmonious tradeoff between this two streams, environment and growth. In my opinion, I think the lack of the necessary capacities, I mean financial, human expertise and technological progress, and the lack of coordination and partnership between countries, international organizations and civil societies, may constitute the major impediment for the diffusion of such friendly technologies in the production process. This is what I think…what I will continue to support.

SILVIA: Yes…Thanks Sofien. You have touched really important themes. Firstly the responsibility of the institutions. There are really so many things to say about it…

Economy affects each of us perhaps more than any other political or social issue.

It affects almost every aspect of our lives: from where we live to how we spend our days, from how we treat the environment to how we educate our children, from what kind of car we drive to how our country relates to others around the world…

Understanding the economy and how it works, on an individual, national, and global scale, is crucial to being an informed citizen and make the difference.

Advice to deepen the topic:

There is a series of 20 short and easy films that everyone can find online on “We The Economy” web page. They explain various elements of our monetary system and economy. In particular A Bee’s Invoice: The Hidden Value in Nature”, directed by Adrian Grenier, is very interesting.

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It answers at the important questions: are natural resources vital to the economy? Why should nature be taken into account when looking at the economy as a whole? “A Bee’s Invoice” discovers and incorporates the hidden value of natural capital in the measurement of our economy.

Granier says: “I have always been passionate about the state of our environment. There’s a giving aspect to nature and what it provides us in both its ineffable beauty as well as its contribution to the things we make from it, that I found making a film about the hidden value of nature and its impact on the economy interesting to explore.”

And his film shows how we can get accurate economic calculations by including the values and costs of climate change and exploitation of resources… This is the only way we can follow to protect long-term prosperity, for us and our planet.

This film shows stunning and natural images, experts’ interviews and objective data. It is able to change everyone’s attitude in considering the economy according to different and greener perspectives. And it reminds us that we’re land’s guests, not his masters! We must act according to Earth’s interests, not just ours: it is for the good and the future of both!

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