Being Sunday, I thought it was a good day to reflect on how we can increase the harmony in which we all live – how can we reconcile on the issues that divide us.
One thing I spend quite a lot of time thinking about is how to reconcile our very legitimate desire for economic prosperity with our desire, sometimes, less overt, for a healthy natural environment.
To listen to politicians, a prosperous economy and a healthy environment is an either/or choice. You can choose to have either a healthy environment OR a healthy economy: lowering pollution will make gas and energy prices go up; having organic or local food will drive up food prices; having more urban parks will increase taxes. And any government regulations…. well that will cost you all a fortune and decimate the industry sector toward whom the regulation is targeted.
This is nuts. It is political posturing – scare mongering for short term political gain, at the expense of one of the most important reconciliations we need if we are to live viably on this planet in generations to come.
Out of the media spotlight, many mainstream organizations are believing that environment and economy are – for from either/or – can’t be healthy in absence of one another. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development – group of 120 of the largest corporations in the world – has said that being environmentally responsibility opens business opportunities. This week, the former Mexican President, Felipe Colderone, and a senior partner at McKinsey (the largest consulting firm in the world) will release a report that concludes that addressing climate change is actually good for the global economy.
To be clear, neither of these groups is environmentalists. They are organizations who want a strong economy and strong wealth creation potential. But they know that destroying the planet – while good for short term political posting – is really bad for business.
Politicians will tell us otherwise. Why? Because making it profitable for environment and economy to thrive together requires some heavy political lifting. We need to, as economists say, internalize externalities. This means tough stuff like switching taxes from ‘good things’ like income and employment to ‘bad things’ like pollution. It means investing in research and development in environmental technologies. It means building infrastructure like green electricity grids. This is sometimes counterintuitive and hard to sell to a fickle electorate, but the countries who have done it have ended up ahead economically.
We deserve a strong economy and a health planet and so do our kids. There is no reason we can’t have it.