Since developed countries did not face environmental regulation during their development, the question has been posed if these countries are imposing a double standard on developing countries such as China. Expecting China to meet the same environmental standards as developed countries seems unfair, and could limit its economic growth, as seen in the reduction of steel production after implementation of more stringent policies (Schmidt, 2004). To protect economic growth, it has been proposed that it is acceptable to develop now and clean-up the environment later. This idea is based on the concept of the Kuznet curve, but it seems optimistic to expect the desired results to be found in all times, situations, and historical periods. With population in China at levels not comparable to those in richer countries at the time of their development, the idea of a double standard is not appropriate. Due to rapid economic growth (and demands for continued growth) and large population, the potential damage to the environment is much greater in China. The gravity of the current problem, both globally and locally in China, makes the question of whether or not China should be held to the same standards as rich countries moot. Not only should China be held to the same standards, it must be held to the same, if not more stringent, standards.
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Continue reading Film Reflection: China Revs Up
The human desire for physical security and satisfaction of needs is self-evident. As the ability to meet these needs advances, the desire for physical security evolves into a quest for affluence. As there is an obvious relationship between affluence and the human ecological footprint, the question of how development should be pursued becomes paramount. White (2006) suggests that cultural development occurs through the harnessing of energy, either through the amount of energy that is harnessed, or through the efficiency with which it is transformed into work and products (p.143). With these points in mind, the question becomes how we can better utilize energy, while also caring for the environment, in a way which will lead to physical security and satisfaction of needs, and perhaps even affluence on a wider, more equitable scale. The ideas on development and environment offered by Beckerman (2006) and Fricker (2006) both have advantages and disadvantages, but the impression that they are diametrically opposed might lead to the assumption that one must be chosen over the other. Development will not cease, nor should it, as it is clear that it brings many advantages. What is needed is a new paradigm for pursuing development and affluence that offers a balanced approach between the self-satisfied mass consumption sanctioned by Ridley (2010), and the condemnation of all development as degradation as asserted by Shiva (2006). This paradigm should offer an efficient framework for harnessing and transforming energy on a broad scale, and lead to development that will benefit the earth and humanity in general.
Continue reading Affluence and the Environment
Demographic fatigue, social instability, and environmental degradation are clearly linked. Demographic fatigue can be described as a state of a government being financially drained by rapid population growth. It results from attempts to engage the needs of more and more people for education and jobs, while still addressing environmental problems (Brown, Gardner, & Halweil, 2006, p. 83). Governments of developing countries are hampered by demographic fatigue in dealing effectively with emerging challenges in the health and wellness of the people and the environment of their country. It becomes a destructive circle – by attempting to meet the needs of more people, environmental and social problems are introduced or exacerbated, impeding meaningful progress in solving any of these problems. It has been suggested that the concept of demographic transition might hold a solution to rapid population growth – by encouraging and accelerating further modernization, it is argued that population growth will stabilize and alleviate the problems of demographic fatigue (Brown et al., 2006). Considering the environmental problems that existing modernized countries face though, the wisdom of the demographic transition approach is questionable…
Continue reading No Easy Solution: Demographic Fatigue