Our Economy Or The Environment?


By E. J. Sieyes

#1. Our Economy or the Environment?

A criticism raised by industrialists and labor is that our environmental initiatives constrain the economy and as a result cost American jobs. In some ways this is a legitimate complaint. Many of our past initiatives do have an adverse impact on the economy, costing jobs and raising the prices of American-made products. Yet a choice between jobs and the environment is not our only option – we can have both. In fact our efforts to protect the environment can strengthen American industry, add jobs, and bolster our economy.

For this to happen we must recognize that we live in a world where the environment is global while our economy is local. Wind and water have no national boundaries. What affects the environment in one nation eventually impacts all nations world-wide. Satellite images show a huge cloud of air pollution over Asia, pollution that did not exist just a few decades ago. Samples of ocean fish taken close to the estuaries of major Asian rivers are starting to show measurable amounts of organic toxins and heavy metals, again to the extent not seen decades ago. This pollution would not exist if measures well-known at the time were taken to prevent pollution as we grew Asian industry.

Industrialists argue against the environment based on cost of pollution abatement. Yet the cost of such measures as would effectively reduce or eliminate this added burden of World pollution would have been economical to incorporate at the time of creating this Asian industrial capacity. Why did industrialists and business magnates not accept their responsibility to the larger World civilization? Did they fear it would cut into profits and the amount of wealth they could amass? Do they intend to pass on this burden to their descendents while reaping immediate profits exploiting nations unable or unwilling to protect their environment?

Consider the impact on the environment if the cost of environmental protection was mandatory in the total economic analysis for producing products and delivering services. We can compel this total cost of production by one simple national measure: prohibit the import of all goods produced in-whole or in-part in nations that do not enforce environmental protection provisions equivalent to or better than those in the United States. Consider the benefit to the environment as nations build-in environmental protection as they industrialize. Consider how manufacturing jobs will be brought back to the United States as companies find it is more economical to produce goods where environmental protection already exists.

Are our major political parties considering such measures? Despite all their claims, all their posturing, all their platform statements, the answer is a resounding NO! Big money control of both major parties will continue to exploit the environment in the quest for ever greater wealth at the expense of the have-nots of the World and our future generations.