Discussion: do "green" and "growth" always go together?

Jul 27, 2011

"Green growth" has recently become a popular topic. Can we go "green" simply through a combination of technology, finance and free markets, or are we avoiding the real issues? Do "green" and "growth" always go together? Central to the notion of growth is "more". If we are talking about finite resources and its limitations, how can we pursue growth indefinitely? Shouldn’t we instead strive for development that is fair, sustainable and empowers the majority?

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Comments (8)

  1. Bonifacio Amado M. Quirog, Jr.:
    Aug 15, 2011 at 07:56 PM

    "Green growth" is a contradiction if by growth we mean growth in the capitalist sense in which more consumption is necessary. We cannot pursue such growth indefinitely. And yes, we should instead strive for development that is fair, sustainable and empowering. Obviously, this imperative cannot be achieved through the capitalist system. One approach which should (or must) be tried is Associative Economics (with Social Threefolding) as offered to humanity by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner.

  2. Varun Nagpal:
    Aug 19, 2011 at 06:27 AM

    I am from India and I just came across this website via BBC hard-talk. I am electronics and software engineer by profession and I know what all goes into making and selling electronics. My view is most of the perceived "growth" is artificial. When someone talks about growth, in real sense it is a personal thing and at the same time as a collective state of the society. Growth to me means healthiness, strong value system, education, love, happiness, intellectual abilities, unity, tolerance, compassion, discipline, financial stability. I mean how much does a computer or a mobile phone adds on to the characteristics of growth.

    Main problem that humans have is the most fundamental problem: greed. It is the greed which is the reason for over consumption. I think beyond a point, all our needs are unnecessary. I mean why do I need to have buy several pairs of clothes every year when a pair can last for an year and more. I donot like to relate growth in terms of financial growth or consumption growth, which is a flawed thought. Being green is still possible but will need lot of sacrifices. I dont think making technology green can solve this problem unless the entire system is overhauled which is unlikely.

  3. Karim Rushdy:
    Aug 19, 2011 at 09:58 AM

    Agree with both comments above. Growth. Success. Prosperity. Meaning. These are all terms that must be redefined in the 21st Century if we are to create more equitable societies.

    The American dream is just that - a dream. The Chinese and Indian dreams will turn out to be nightmares for all of us unless a new development course is set, and soon.

  4. Suresh:
    Aug 20, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Who invented the term 'green' and to mean what? The general understanding without it being defined in the Oxford dictionary is less energy consumption and pollution. Will answering that fix the ills of today, viz; famine, wars, military spending, the high cost of living and general all round waste?? Or can the term going green mean something else, like living an ascetic and altruistic life??

    My question is, is such a life style even natural?? For being selfish is in our genes. Its what allows you and I to converse in the English language despite being non-native speakers of the language (assuming we are all from asia). The affluence that some of us have been brought up in is due to the self-preservation instincts of our ancestors. Capitalism is just an allowance for the expression of our inner urges for survival. However, marrying such an instinct with biological intelligence and you get what we have today, a system that runs on an abstract system of credit and laws determined to prop up the fiat of institutions that have no real standing except as a symbol of the said system and for the sheer benefit of the few who came up with the idea. You have to admire their sheer ingenuity for coming up with this scheme.

    To fix this problem, there is only one solution. Remove the gene or genes responsible for self-preservation. Then you will eradicate greed. That will kill the desire for profit, which will make banks redundant. Unfortunately that will also remove the drive for survival of the species and it will just be a matter of time before the apes take over the world or if that doesn't happen we can bet (pun intended) that in a billion years our Sun will eradicate our species conclusively and forever without leaving any trace of humans having ever been in the Universe; because without our survival instinct, we wouldn't have the drive to leave the planet in search of another home.

    So, in closing, I can say, Consumptionomics is just another rehash of an ideal that has popped up centuries before. (Both capitalism and communism were meant to address social issues. Both don't work. Neither does democracy, but its the best we have after all this time.) It's a great hobby though and I wouldn't mind spending some of my time 'trying' to change the minds of 7 billion of my fellow avaricious humans and hope that some fame and notoriety will stick to me (will look good on any resume) yeah?! ;)

    1. Irshad Mobarak:
      Aug 21, 2011 at 01:43 PM

      Throughout the history of man, vested interest have manipulated knowledge, science, economic and religion as a means to an end. This is true weather it is in the jungles of Borneo, in smoke fill corner room of gentlemen clubs in London or the dark hallways of congress. Take for example the science of evolution, when it was presented in 1858 by the eminent naturalist Sir Charles Darwin, Europe was at the peak of the 2nd industrial revolution and in any industrial revolution we need raw materials and markets. These raw materials and markets are in Africa, Asia and South America and by promoting the view that evolution only supported the stronger or faster, that in nature it is all about 'survival of the fittest' which is a term coined by a leading social philosopher and economist of the time, the eminent Herbert Spencer. Perhaps Herbert Spencer's is influenced by his understanding of Adam Smiths -The Wealth of Nation. Applying the principles of free markets,non interference, supply-demand and competition into his ideas of the social sciences of man vs man, tribe vs tribe, nations vs nations and even race vs race. Adam Smith believed in the superiority of the Anglo Saxon race. Leading social philosophers of the time in Germany and France each believing that they were the more superior of all. Now add into the mix the birth of a powerful class of people the Industrial Capitalist and on the opposite end Karl Marx's 'Das Kapital and you have a powder keg. It starts the european race for raw materials and markets and ideologies which leads to the subjugation of Asia and Africa under the pretext of civilizing the uncivilized and savages of Africa, India, South East Asia, and China.
      Alfred Russel Wallace the co-founder of the theory of evolution will speak out against this perversion of evolutionary science in 1885 in an article called 'Bad Times' that this manipulation of our science

  5. Irshad Mobarak:
    Aug 21, 2011 at 02:04 PM

    Cont. will lead us Europe to a catastrophe, Wallace will pass on in 1913 and the following year what he had feared most was to happen the 1st World War, over 11million will people will die. Fighting in the trenches of the this first WW is none other the monster Adolf Hitler who will believe that it is the blond blues eyed Aryan that is the most superior.....he will industrialize genocide of 6mill Jews and thousands of Roma, disables and homosexuals and take us to the 2nd WW in which 40million people mostly civilians will perish.
    My hero is Alfred Russel Wallace and all those people of the ages who spoke out and continue to speak out against injustice and the animalisation of the human, for there is also in us the gene for compassion, love, justice, forgiveness and all that differentiate us from the beast. Unlike the beast we have in our genes the ability to make our own choices, we choose our future and the future for our children.
    Irshad Mobarak

    1. Thomas Rollison:
      Sep 24, 2011 at 04:49 AM

      Very well said. And that self serving interpretation of evolution was folded neatly, though somewhat covertly, into the notion of constant economic growth as the ideal. I have described it as the biggest ponzi scheme ever. The whole scheme succeeds or fails on the ability of the operator to hide the true costs involved. As long as western societies were willing to ignore the wholesale destruction of peoples and environments the scheme could continue to stay afloat. Unfortunately for even those societies, eventually the scheme needs more and more victims and the operators need more and more capital to keep the scheme going. Of course "need" may be much too polite a word when we are really talking about greed. Either way, the current economic crisis is, I hope ,serving to rattle the confidence of those hard working people here in the USA and everywhere. The ponzi always starts to unravel when those getting played start to realize the profits just aren't forth coming.As we've seen our home values and investments decline some of us have started to push back. Any economic model based on unending growth could never be sustainable. So the true costs of industrial activity have by necessity been under counted. The public market simply doesn't reward sustainability, only growth. Anything else is seen as stagnation and the public stock will be punished. I would love to know of any ideas on how to reward sustainability in the free market. Making wise consumer choices, sure. But with all the trillions of dollars invested in the worlds stock exchanges, unless we come up with a good carrot to reward honesty and full accountability we are simply left with the stick of regulations. And the battle over the size and power to wield that stick has come to represent most of what passes for politics in this country. Is stock speculation inherently wrong? Originally it was the carrot offered to innovators and entrepreneurs. But more and more it seems like an end unto itself. How can all the wealth represented by those exchanges be redirected and not simply destroyed? I still believe in capitalism and I still believe that those who take risks to advance and innovate should be rewarded. But I also believe that the bias towards rewarding growth at any cost is destructive. Currently, publicly owned businesses are simply not rewarded for pursuing balance. Perhaps if the true cost of industrial activity could be honestly accounted for from the beginning. Certainly something like nuclear energy wouldn't be supported then. Should such accounting be applied retroactively? Is it too radical to say that those who benefited the most should shoulder the most responsibility for re-balancing the books of any enterprise found to have discounted their cost of doing business? Certainly a real shift in focus is needed in the way businesses are developed and investors are rewarded. I'm just looking for the mechanism which can drive that shift in the least destructive way.

  6. Yuxin Hou:
    Sep 21, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    A good article on Rudolf Steiner's view on Associative Economy and the Threefolding of Social Orders:

    Thanks @Bonifacio Amado M. Quirog, Jr. for bring up the topic!

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