WASHINGTON D.C.—On 21 October 2011, President Barack Obama signed free trade agreements with three countries, believing all agreements will boost the U.S. economy.
If the newly signed U.S. free trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama do boost the economy, demand for products will increase as prices for them decrease. This sort of economic growth has been linked to negative effects on the environment as well as global warming.
As demand for products goes up, more resources are used to produce those products. Supporters of economic growth believe Earth will reproduce the resources taken from it, even if at a slower rate than humans would like.
Critics of economic growth argue that Earth’s resources are limited and will eventually cease to exist, quicker if global production keeps its pace. They feel humans should use only what they need, the bare minimum.
However, some critics also advocate for ways to efficiently sustain Earth’s resources and still keep economies growing.
Or developing, rather.
For economic growth, environmental deregulation
The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent as of September 2011, though it is higher in ethnic minority communities, causing a political obsession with job creation.
Politicians and their economic aides feel that the more people are working, the more money they will have to spend, thus growing the economy.
“For years, Washington has been busy tying the hands of businesses across this nation with regulations and backwards fiscal policies that have slowed entrepreneurship and destroyed jobs,” Congressmember Ed Royce, 40th District Representative, was quoted in the OC Register last summer. “It is time to reverse that trend.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come under criticism from politicians, activists, and others who say that regulating the gases that certain businesses, like ExxonMobil, emit will make it difficult for those businesses to hire workers.
Instead, the businesses will be using workers' salaries to pay fines for emitting too much gas.
But there are others who feel that people are working to grow the economy at the expense of the environment.
“Development has no limits, growth has limits”
Chilean economist Mr. Manfred Max-Neef told Democracy Now! last fall that most economists do not understand that humans depend completely on nature and cannot rely solely on economic growth to sustain them.
Mr. Max-Neef said that economists don’t know how to calculate costs, sharing that economic advisors or consultants advise companies to move their factories away from where their products will be sold.
“What is the impact on the environment of that transportation, you know, and all those things?” he rhetorically asked, adding that such advise dehumanizes the process of people interacting in food production.
If products were produced closer to home, people who purchase those products might know who made them and feel more of a connection with the producer. Such solidarity among people depends on mutual aid, not greed.
“Greed is the dominant value today in the world,” he said. “As long as that persists, well, we are done.”
He continued, saying the economy is meant to serve people, people are not meant to serve the economy.
“Development is about people, not about objects,” he said, adding that growth is not the same as development and development doesn’t necessarily require growth. “Development has no limits, growth has limits.”
Nothing is more important than life, he added.
One form of economics, environmental economics, is an actual field of economics that focuses specifically on the economy’s effect on the environment.
The central theme behind environmental economics is market failure, meaning that the market economy will fail to sufficiently provide resources for the people it serves.
Because of this insufficiency, more people are excluded from obtaining certain resources, like clean water, as the resource is limited and salvaged for those privileged enough to access it.
Such access can come from private purchase or be given by the government. If given by the government, the quality of the resource will be degraded, as more people will be using the resource.
Thought to consider
How will more jobs in the community affect the environment, from the people to the animals and plants?