Economic growth has often come at a high cost to the environment. Because of the environmental degradation that usually accompanies economic progress, many people are questioning whether the cost is worth it.
One one hand, some people argue that while protecting the environment is important, nature does not have an inherent value, unless it is seen relative to the benefits it can bring to the people. If destroying nature would lead to the improvement of lives for many people, then the economic benefits would definitely outweigh the environmental costs. It is neither realistic nor practical to think about preserving the environment solely for the sake of the environment. Instead of asking, “what will this do to the environment,” people should be asking “what will this do for us?”
On the other hand, other people assert that protecting the environment is important because it is vital to ensuring the perpetuation of mankind. Losing biodiversity completely would not only lead to economic failure, general utility would also disappear entirely. In a world with finite resources, environmental sustainability is important because an economically progressive world without clean air or potable water or a clean landscape is definitely not a desirable world to live in.
Exploring the Middle Ground
No matter how people choose to frame it, it is a common misconception to think that these two concepts are mutually exclusive. Not only are they compatible with each other, both are essential to each other’s success. Thus, economic development strategies need to reflect the values of sustainability and energy efficiency. Sustainable economic development means that private companies and the government should invest in projects that increase prosperity for everyone, now and for the future generation.
However, one should remember that the idea of environmental sustainability is not equivalent to the concept of corporate responsibility. The true value of sustainability is the ability to see social, economic, ethical, and social issues as intertwined. Continued economic growth can only be possible through policies, projects, and programs that also take into account other values that are important to the community such as health, good relationships, and confidence about the future.