Given that Professor Munasinghe is a man of many disciplines, it is not surprising that our discussion with him was not bounded by any categories. One interesting theme included in our talks with him is the concept of changing values at the very base of our society. Those values ultimately also determine consumption and consequently myriads of environmental problems on all levels. Consumption has traditionally been attributed to the atomistic individual but its root is more grounded in societal value. Thorstein Veblen described this concept with the term “conspicuous consumption” by highlighting that a majority of consumption was driven merely by the need to display social standing and power.
One of the most common misconceptions about the green economy is that there is an inescapable trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic development. In addition, that environmental concern would be a luxury that only the developed countries can afford. However, throughout the conference so far, we have seen multiple arguments that incorporating sustainability into the development process is a vital key to alleviate poverty and increase economic growth. In a session today organized by the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production, Nobel Prize Winner Mohan Munasinghe argued that there are some third world countries that still believe the increased focus on sustainability and the green economy to be “a trick by the western countries to keep down their development process”. Nevertheless, the gap between the north and south on this issue has been narrowing and the world seem to be reaching a general consensus that sound environmental management is vital in order to achieve economic growth, not only in the long run but also in the short run.