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My Thoughts On Waring

Sara Lazarovska's picture

Does economic prosperity equal environmental destruction? Waring seems to think so. She talks about how CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are actually counted as economic growth, not environmental degradation, and about carbon trading as an economic activity, much more like a service than an action that might impact various ecosystems. However, I think that her outlook on our relationship with nature (as humans wishing for economic prosperity) is quite dismal and I'm not so sure I completely agree with her. Granted, economic growth has taken its toll in the natural environment in the countries where it has been most apparent (Japan, USA, China, Germany, etc.), but to say that a country must be environmentally destructive in order to be economically productive is a little far-fetched. I'm thinking of Norway when I say this. Norway has fared quite well economically; while it has never been a global (or even European) economic superpower, it has certainly had one of the most stable economies, as well as highest life standards. Additionally, they have exploited very little of their natural resources when compared to other global economic powers of the same strength. Indeed, they have extracted a lot of petroleum and natural gas and have one of the largest global timber industries, but they also have vast expanses of untouched nature, a percentage of "natural purity" that countries such as the US can only dream about. Furthermore, it has refused to join the European Union mainly to perserve its current fishing laws and regulations; also, they do not need the economic safety net that the EU provides (or have not needed it thus far). 

However, I do agree with Waring that there are some things that have no monetary value (and are hence not considered when making economic decisions) but are invaluable to the quality of life. Such things are clean air and water. But, recent times have seen the emerging "ownership" of natural resources that people used to deem infinite but now realize are finite like freshwater. Because of lack of freshwater availability in some parts of the world, great conflict has arisen between neighboring countries regarding rivers that flow across national borders (especially in the Middle East), and some analysts think that the wars of the 21st century might well be fought over water, not land.



CMJ's picture


Don't forget that even though Norway (and perhaps Canada as well, it is acutally the largest oil exporter to the US) has untouched natural resources with in it's borders, it can keep it's wilderness that way because it has essentially exported its carbon emmissions to other countries. Norway is still a consumer. Just because it doesn't consume it's own resources does not mean the people there aren't contributing to the greater trashing of the planet. Not everyone can be like Norway.

ZoeHlmn's picture


I think it is very interesting that you bring up other countries economies that have not necessarily thrived economically but have been stable. The United States' past one hundred years have not always been economically sound in my opinion and fluxuates drastically at times, even though the US has periods of extreme economic prosperity. I think it is very interesting that you have given a clearcut example of a country that has contradicted Waring. And as you mentioned Norway, I am going to bring up Canada, another economically stable country that has not environmentally destroyed its country with using up its renewable resources. However, I do think that in order for a country to be a superpower by todays standards there is a direct correlation between the environment and the economic prosperity, the greater the economic prosperity the worse off the environment and resources are. I think if the definition of a superpower was changed from monetary riches to environmental prosperity then countries like Norway and Canada would be the ideal situation. Then by changing this definition we are taking into account the importance of what Norway and Canada are doing differently from other countries such as China, India, and the US (in the past).

Sarah Cunningham's picture

wait a minute...

I can't quite buy the notion that Canada and Norway are so very different from other developed countries... If they have a high percentage of wilderness areas left, that is mostly because so much of their territory is too far north to be "useful". Canada has recently been active in extracting oil from a large area of "tar sands"-- a very filthy and destructive process. And everybody now wants to drill in the arctic. While the examples you cite (and sara) may be more moderate in their destructiveness to the environment, they are still part of the global paradigm of exploitation. It does not change the need to bring environmental costs into our economic equations. Canada and Norway can get used up too.