We know that both the economy and the environment face difficult times ahead. Our economy has started to shrink, while global climate patterns become ever more erratic.
However, there may be some hope in this situation. Experts such as Bill Rees, an ecologist at UBC and creator of the "ecological footprint" concept, maintain that if we are serious about saving our environment, we need to reduce our economic growth.
In a way, this would seem to make sense. Economies are based on resources, and the more we develop our economy, the greater the toll on the earth's resources. Even the so-called renewable resources are suffering. To illustrate, in 2008, we used all the resources the earth would renew in a year by September. This mean that for a quarter of last year, we were drawing on resources that would not be renewed this year.
If this trend goes unchecked, eventually we will run out of resources. So, with a reduction in economic growth comes relief for the planet.
Whether or not we need to go into a planned economic recession, as Rees suggests, is another matter. It is possible to restructure the economy so that it depends less on non-renewable resources and resources in general. In addition, we can recycle and reuse that which we have already produced, meaning that we need not take some new resources from the earth.
The environment is in dire straits, as soon the ever melting ice in the Arctic will show this summer. In fact, the melting of the ice is almost a whole century ahead of schedule.
Clearly, we need to take serious action on the environment. Forget about green this and that. Eventually, economies cannot grow anymore. It is foolishness to think that economic growth is infinite.
It turns out that the environment is an even more complex issue than thought, for we need to restructure our economy as well. We cannot reduce environmentally harmful economic growth by harming the livelihoods of millions of people, turning them out of work. It will take real courage and innovation, and a willingness to take this issue seriously.
If we do not act decisively, it will be too late.
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