Economy Versus Environment: Not an Either/Or Debate

I have been frustrated recently by the fact that the recent global economic situation has put many critical environmental issues on the back burner. It seems like decision-makers believe that the environment and the economy are disconnected from one another, and that dealing with environmental concerns will come at a cost to human economic well being. This trade off is often presented as fact, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

So, I was thrilled to read the recently released Living Planet Report 2008 from World Wildlife Fund. The opening paragraph really caught my attention. The recent downturn in the global economy is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means. But the possibility of financial recession pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch.

The report goes on to describe how we are consuming the earth’s resources faster than they can be replaced, to a point where we are endangering human prosperity and that of many other plants and animals. Yet our demands on mother earth continue to escalate, driven in Canada by huge growth in individual consumption. In Canada national consumption has outstripped the country’s ability to replenish resources. Canada ranks 7th in the world in terms of our ecological footprint per person. If every living person on the planet consumed resources at the same rate as Canadians we would need some 3 planet earths to meet the demand!

The report is well worth reading and a link to the report has been included here. Perhaps the best thing about this report is that it clearly demonstrates the intricate and inextricable links between the environment and the economy. It is not an either or debate. Without a healthy, functioning and resilient environment, there is no economy.