November 30, 2009
According to the report: "there is not one model of economic development, there are many. But conventional definitions of development have been largely set by industrialized countries to favor their own economic interests and often imposed on poorer societies, regardless of place or cultural context."
Entitled Other Worlds are Possible—Human Progress in an Age of Climate Change, the report argues that the current the economic growth-based model—largely imposed by wealthy nations—has unfairly placed high costs and few benefits on the world's poor. Although natural resources have long been unfairly divided, climate change is now exacerbating the divide between rich nations and poor. And while the United States and Western Europe have largely avoided large climatic impacts so far, these wealthy regions are historically most responsible for the planet's warming.
Children in Tsianaloka village (Manambolo) in Madagascar. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
One of the report's writers, Professor Jayati Ghosh from India, argues that a new economic model must encourage less materialism, rather than more. Chilean Professor Manfred Max-Neef, also a contributor, argues that relying on economic growth alone will not solve the world's poverty problem. He posits future economic models that focus far more on regionalization and localization without ignoring environmental limits.
Although there are many economic models that have been developed to better create a sustainable society aware of ecological constraints and to bridge the growing gap between rich and poor, many economists in wealthy nations seem unwilling to consider any changes.
"'There is No Alternative' is one of the most misleading claims of the market fundmentalists, [but] there are actually dozens of alternatives, many of them already being put into practice," said Duncan Green, Head of Research with Oxfam.
The report urges an economic model based on qualitative development instead of overconsumption to feed consumerism in wealthy nations, a habit which the report argues negatively impacts poorer nations abroad. The report throws out the theory of 'trickle-down' economics wherein it is believed that by increasing wealth in the hands of the already wealthy, money will trickle down from the wealthy to the poorer strata of society. Currently the UN estimates that one billion are going hungry.
Men waiting in a desert in China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
"Every government planning to attend the Copenhagen climate summit says they want to stop catastrophic global warming. Yet every government also promotes economic policies that guarantee disaster," says co-author Andres Simmons, policy director and climate change program director at NEF. "None is steering us genuinely to live collectively within our environmental means. Without new economic development models that chart how to meet human needs within ecological boundaries, any climate deal will be set up to fail."
Dr. Alison Doig, Senior Climate Change Advisor for Christain Aid, says that while the current economic model has always been based on inequality, "climate change is magnifying the inequalities inherent in our current growth-based development model. This report shows that there are other approaches to development which are both fairer and far less dangerous to the environment on which we ultimately depend."
Simmons adds that "the challenge is for governments to stop clinging to old, failing economic theory that treats the Earth like a business in liquidation, and people as an inefficient factor of production."
The members of the Working Group on Climate Change and Development are: ActionAid International, Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, BirdLife International, Cafod, Care, Christian Aid, Columbian Faith and Justice, IDS (Institute of Development Studies), IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Green New Deal Group, Medact, nef (new economics foundation), Operation Noah, Oxfam, Oneclimate.net, People & Planet, Practical Action, Progressio, RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, WWF, WaterAid, and World Vision.
Nations vulnerable to global warming present demands: carbon levels below 350ppm and billions in aid
(11/10/2009) A group of nations especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change have released a declaration calling for developed countries to keep CO2 emission below 350 parts per million (ppm) and to give 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product to aid developing nations in adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change.
Could agroforestry solve the biodiversity crisis and address poverty?, an interview with Shonil Bhagwat
(09/24/2009) With the world facing a variety of crises: climate change, food shortages, extreme poverty, and biodiversity loss, researchers are looking at ways to address more than one issue at once by revolutionizing sectors of society. One of the ideas is a transformation of agricultural practices from intensive chemical-dependent crops to mixing agriculture and forest, while relying on organic methods. The latter is known as agroforestry or land sharing—balancing the crop yields with biodiversity. Shonil Bhagwat, Director of MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, believes this philosophy could help the world tackle some of its biggest problems.
Alleviating poverty and saving biodiversity are inherently linked argue scientists
(09/17/2009) Twenty-nine scientists argue in Science today that the world will not be able to lift up the world's poor unless it also addresses global biodiversity loss. They say that the same underlying problems—exploitation of resources, unsustainable overconsumption, climate change, population growth—are exacerbating global poverty and the extinction of species.
Economists, scientists warn that world crises require new order of international cooperation and enforcement
(09/15/2009) A group of environmental scientists and economists warn that under current governing models the number and scale of human-caused crises are "outrunning our ability to deal with them".
Investing in conservation could save global economy trillions of dollars annually
(09/03/2009) By investing billions in conserving natural areas now, governments could save trillions every year in ecosystem services, such as natural carbon sinks to fight climate change, according to a European report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
Could engineering rainforests save the planet from global warming?
(01/21/2009) At the Smithsonian symposium entitled “Will the Rainforests Survive?”, leading tropical biologists vigorously debated current threats to the rainforest and what the future may hold. While climate change was identified as a leading threat to rainforests, many of the scientists argued that the tropics may also be the key to mitigating the impact of global warming.