It's the Environment, Stupid.

Friday, June 16, 2006

UNEP battles environment vs. economy myth

In a Reuters report, via ENN, the new head of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said, "Environmental sustainability in the 21st century is not only the preserve of environmentalists, but of everybody who uses resources on this planet."

There's also an article about Steiner from the Financial Times via WBCSD, where he is quoted as saying, "'The current difficulty is that environmental issues are marginalised in economic decision-making,' he said. 'Economic issues that touch on the environment are pushed out of environmental conventions, and environmental issues are not really allowed to make an impact on economic and trade negotiations.'"

Of course it is only his first day on the job, and a lot of people say a lot of things on their first day, especially when they're holding press conferences about it. But if this guy follows through on his intent to debunk the myth that environmental degradation must happen in order for economic growth, I'll be his biggest fan.

My strong disagreement with the assumption in development/economic theory that economic growth must equal environmental degradation is one of the main reasons I started this blog. It was the topic of my research paper in an environmental economics class, and something I tried to bring up in my other development focused classes that had nothing to do with the environment. My friends were tired of listening to me rant on and on about how if only the old-school development people, city and country governments, (and our professors) would take into consideration the environment as a factor in more development programs, then we might be able to start working towards some form of sustainable development, a term that everyone talked about (and a term I also wrote a couple of papers on), which I feel is not approached in a comprehensive, effective way.

Granted I don't have any kind of extensive field experience, nor have I worked with the UN or the World Bank, or Jeffrey Sachs or Joseph Stiglitz, and there are much more complex systems at work in development programs than can be covered in a mere blog post/rant, but to treat the environment as a separate entity unrelated to economic or social factors is just plain stupid - which echoes my very first posting from way back in January 2006.

This is why I think Steiner is on to something when he suggests that, "environmental protection is a condition for economies to survive and thrive in the long term. 'We have to get environmental concerns into the mainstream of economics ... to include what we are consuming and destroying.'"

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