“If you really think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath whilst you count your money.” – Dr. Guy McPherson
The combat between the economy and the environment is age-old. While the pro-economy and the pro-environment populace stand their ground, what do liberals like me, who equally care about the two, do? To disintegrate, “In a liaison, when there is a conflict between two parties, it is not ‘a’ versus ‘b’ but it is ‘a+b’ against the problem.” Building onto this thought process, what if we befriend the economy and the environment, both? With Indian GDP going south, can ecological innovations facilitate its upliftment? Furthermore, if these innovations can be carried by the people from the lower rung of the economical and social ladder, it would lead to creation of employment opportunities and increase GDP growth rate. Moreover, it would also bring about an increase in India’s Environmental Performance Index in the global scenario.
Many emerging ‘green careers’ and ‘eco-friendly businesses’ can help carve the path to economic, financial, and environmental growth as well as GDP growth. Presently, during the pandemic and the resultant economic slow-down, the raging question that concerned everyone is, “How can the falling GDP be restored?” The concept or the model’s grounding can be fixated and illustrated through lived realities. We’ve seen on online forums how people from local areas or even start-ups for that matter are coming up with life-changing ideas that are helping them grow, socially, and most importantly, financially. Examples like Dhritiman Bora, who from a small town in Guwahati has made it big by making and supplying bamboo bottles all over India. His product has now successfully reached big platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, etc. which has a reach of more than 135 crores of Indians.
Instagram, one of the top-grossing online suppliers of products and services has become home to many shop-profiles that engage in ‘Thrift clothing and fashion’ which provides employment to lakhs of people engaged in an environmental-friendly fashion occupation. Recently during the lockdown, a carpenter in Punjab created a bicycle made up entirely of wood. It has received enormous acclaim and is being considered for manufacture and distribution to expansive nooks and corners of the country. These and many such genius ideas are carving the path towards the fulfilment of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. This initiative can be realized if employment is provided to such aspiring sections of people, who will further be the forces creating employment opportunities to others, forming a chain reaction.
Experts suggest that the informal sector, start-ups and small businesses are the future of the Indian economy. In this democratic and globalised India, with power much decentralised, people from all demographics are able to try out their hands on business trends. Social media and internet are proving to be prime airports for these flights to take-off from. While a post or a story is reaching billions at one time, online shopping parcels are reaching homes and offices in millions. While all of these environment-based undertakings have disparate ways of functioning, their motto remains indistinguishable: to bring to the forefront ecology-related innovations and environmental sustainability as huge impact creators on the economy of a country by the means of profit-earning. While the idea sounds very capitalistic and discriminatory, the essence of social democracy is what establishes itself as the leveller here. Sure, the argument of not everyone owns the means of production and the knowledge required to establish a business prevails. But the contradiction lies in the essence that these new ventures are employing many unskilled and semi-skilled labourers which would have had been rendered unemployment had they not been included in the permanent workforce.
While all of this sounds like a win-win situation, most economical theories look good only on paper. The execution is what occupies the centre stage in this model. However, fortunately, economics is a discipline where not only the problems are highlighted but also the solutions are yielded. Leveraging a more realistic outlook, the neologism ‘Environment Economy’ can help us solve this problem. “Environmental economics is an area of economics that studies the financial impact of environmental policies. Environmental economists perform studies to determine the theoretical or empirical effects of environmental policies on the economy. This field of economics helps users design appropriate environmental policies and analyze the effects and merits of existing or proposed policies.” (Chen, 2021)
We can use this field of economics and develop on it to build a booming economy. When the budget of 2020 was presented by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice commented, “While the budget touches on ongoing sectoral efforts, there remains an urgent need for more ambitious structural and financial sector reform measures and a medium-term fiscal consolidation strategy, anchored in tangible revenue and expenditure measures, especially given the rising debt levels. The environment is weaker than we had forecasted earlier and that a more accumulative fiscal stance this year is appropriate. (Press Trust of India, 2020)
Kofi Annan rightly states, “Our biggest challenge in the new century is to take an idea that seems abstract- sustainable development- and turn it into a reality for all the people.” Thus, while people are already at it and putting their best foot forward to empower themselves, the people around, the environment and subsequently the economy, it is important that the magnitude of these ventures must be increased and made widespread. In conclusion, by making the local powerful, giving opportunities to them to thrive, we will aid our country to become ‘for the people, of the people, by the people’ in its truest sense.
– Khushboo Shah (Guest Writer)
TYBA, St. Xavier’s College – Autonomous, Mumbai
Edited by: Saloni Vichare (Editor, Econ Declassified)
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