Competitive economy and protection of environment have been at loggerheads since perhaps the agricultural age. The first disturbances to earth’s natural ecosystem must have started when men cleared a part of the forest to plant crops.
Still there are many societies that live in deep forests without doing any agriculture. They depend upon whatever the natural surroundings provide. These communities and their ecosystem in deep Amazon forest regions have been specially protected after it was found that they held the key to the protection of this region that held the largest chunk of green earth. It was done after environmentalists raised alarm over heavy economic activity accompanied in those areas that threatened not only the ecology but also its inhabitants.
Human beings being human beings they could not remain cavemen forever. They could not also confine themselves only to particular pockets of the huge earth. However, every giant step of man’s evolution and expansion has come at heavy price and sacrifice. As Yuval Noah Harare writes in his book A Brief History of Human Kind, extinction of many verities of animals from a particular region coincide with the entry of human beings in that area.
If the initial damage to earth’s natural ecosystems was done by agriculture, the industrial revolution dealt a body blow that spread its harmful effects to not only earth’s green cover but also to water and air. Again human beings being human beings, it was bound to happen. Man is a rational animal. Man is a curious animal. Man is an adventurous animal. After all men had to apply brain to search for solutions to the pressing problems of the time.
The damages done are usually realized later. But the unfortunate thing is, even though now we realize why there is global warming or change in pattern of seasons we find ourselves helpless in face of pressing reality of economic growth.
These days there are lots of talks about sustainable development. There are frequent international conferences where world leaders gather to highlight the dangers of economic exploitations of environment and the way forward. But the stark reality of economic development in a competitive word always takes precedence over sustainable development.
Local and International economic competitions make things worse. The case in point are Chinese cities that have become unlivable because of cost cutting measures to be competitive. The cost cutting included not spending on reducing hazardous by products due to industrial activity. The industrial cities in our country are no better.
Even other cities are no better as a free market economy gives free reign to companies to produce polluting vehicles that depend upon people to buy them without restraint. With every contemplated step to improve the environment there are always fears of job loss or making things uncompetitive. Thus this vicious cycle continues.
The relationship of economic growth and environmental degradation was clearly seen, in a reverse way, during the Covid Pandemic when the economic activities of world came to a standstill. While the world was in panic, many positive developments in earth’s environment and atmosphere were reported. So, as the responsible living beings of the earth if we the human beings are not able to stop the damage to the environment nature itself steps in. But let us not forget that nature does not discriminate between human and non-human beings.
Can there be ways to stop environmental damage without hurting our economic interests? I will discuss this in my next blogpost in this series on environment. Meanwhile I would love to hear your views.