Grow Green!

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There is a misunderstanding. We thought growth was about having and producing more, about improving quality of life. What happened? The concept of growth didn’t really take into account the whole life cycle of products and services we created and consumed. Without the internalization of current negative externalities we won’t be able to understand what growth really is, therefore not being able to grow at all.

As Bruno Oberle, Director of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), said today, we must make a sustained effort to rethink and redefine aditional measures of well-being. We must try to find other indicators besides the GDP in order to reflect the development of the economy. Mr. Oberle highlighted the importance of availability of information for consumers: only if they are informed will they be able to decide and rethink their actual consumption patterns. According to the UN, if current population and consumption trends continue, we will need the equivalent of at least two Earths to support our consumption level by 2030.

Ecological Footprint two Scenarios

Ecological Footprint: two Scenarios

Because we only have one planet Earth where we are able to live in, if rational, we have no other option but taking care of it. The increase in human population and consumption of resources can’t go forever. We must reduce our  ecological footprint, so the resources we consume and the waste we generate are less than the ability of nature to generate new resources and absorbe our waste.

It is not about impeding growth, if growth is correctly defined. Our development must be guided by “Green Growth”, where all the negative and positive externalities of our actions are internalized all over the World.

I hope to learn during the next two days what the concept of Green Growth exactly is and how it is applied.

In the meantime, there is a lot of information on and on the OECD website. The short summary “Environmentally sustainable economic growth for the well-being of all” leaves me hopeful for today. Maybe there will be a clear roadmap at the end of the conference.


Global Foodprint Network

4 thoughts on “Grow Green!

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your article.
    I would like to know if during the conferences other proposals of indicators appart of GDP to measure economic development have been mentioned ?

    This is also a very nice report from UNEP:
    “Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth”. It’s just about resource efficiency. New technology and less consumption and wastes!! as alternatives

  2. Thanks for the valuable reports !
    Regarding the issues raised, we already know that human population growth will decrease (growth, not population) in the next decades; there’ll be around 9 000 millions of us on this planet by 2050, if I remember correctly the official projections. What worries me is the resource consumption. The very concept of continuous economic growth has been challenged already, as it can’t go on forever in a finite world. Decreasing our resource consumption, as necessary as it is, only postpones the time of depletion of finite stocks of resources. 100% recycling is, to date, out of reach due to collection shortages, energy requirements and material loss during the recycling process, and the degradation of the raw material’s mechanical and chemical properties (requiring primary raw material fraction in the recycled product). So, the solution will be the use of renewable resources (wood, for instance). The difficulty again is that there is so much we can use of such resources without the stocks to renew themselves. and, as far as I see it, this type of consumption behaviour doesn’t really fit into a constant increase of production, to sustain continuous economic growth, as green as it is. You produce better, with less energy, material and impacts per unit, but you produce more units. How far can you go ? Technological progress ? Maybe, how much are you ready to bet on such a ‘possibility/potentiality’, if what’s at stake is water, food and human livelihood ?

  3. The New Economics Foundation does some really interesting work on ‘valuing what matters’:

    One particularly interesting report is there ‘A Bit Rich’ report, which measures the value of people’s work compared to what they get paid: two examples:

    ‘While collecting salaries of between £500,000 and £10 million, leading City bankers to destroy £7 of social value for every pound in value they generate.’

    ‘For every £1 they are paid, childcare workers generate between £7 and £9.50 worth of benefits to society’.

    See for more details on the calculations, measurements etc, but I think it’s an interesting approach.

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