You don’t have to look very hard to find evidence that businesses and technology can be bad for nature. Think of the catastrophic effects of oil spills, like the recent Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, among other pollution fiascoes that have hit the headlines. Part of the problem is that the mindset of politicians and businesspeople seems to be that economic growth and conservation are somehow in opposition – but this just isn’t the case.
In the United Kingdom, environmentalists have been enraged by a government that got into power with promises of being the ‘greenest government ever’. It wasn’t long before they were justifying cutting back on their proposed green initiatives and support for eco-business arguing this had to be done in order to promote economic growth. Envoronmentalists have been quick to point out that this is a short-sighted false economy and an absurd misrepresentation of the realities.
The bottom line is that business success and economic growth depend on natural resources and a healthy planet. The cost of environmental degradation and disasters, including the effects of climate change, is astronomical. Then there’s the solid fact that eco-business is playing an ever more important role in economic development world-wide. It’s estimated that nearly a million people in the UK alone benefit from the jobs that have been created in the low-carbon and environmental sector.
The attitude of politicians and profit-seekers is not just self-interested but self evidently plain wrong. One study, conducted by the environmental data analysis experts, Trucost, quantified the damage that this false dichotomy between nature and economy is already doing. They estimated that more than 6.5 trillion dollars are being lost because of it; that’s over 10% of the entire global economy. Measures to combat this are financially cheap in comparison.
Eco-business people aren’t happy either, especially when they’ve come up with tried and tested strategies that plainly demonstrate that business and nature working together are the best strategy for economic growth. A significant part of the pharmaceutical industry’s innovations depend on genetic diversity, and hence new compounds and treatments, continuing to exist in the natural world. There’s also ample evidence that conserving functioning ecosystems is beneficial to farming and food production, increasing crop yields and limiting the use of toxic chemical pollutants.
The British chancellor’s approach, and that of other poorly informed, self-serving politicians may be a major problem in some countries but others, including India and Costa Rica, are building their economic development strategies around the recognition that nature and the environment are the foundation on which to encourage growth and make savings that will benefit their citizens. It’s not a matter of nature for nature’s sake. Eco-business success stories have proven beyond any doubt that it’s not growth versus nature, and the sooner politicians wise up, the better off we will all be