In the midst of the economic downturn, people are rethinking some of the assumptions that we have taken for granted or are regarded as 'radical' when we try to challenge them. Among these assumptions are economic 'growth' and environmental protection. For too many people and for too long, we have been told that we need to maintain economic 'growth' to create jobs, reduce/eliminate poverty and crimes, and improve our standards of living. However, more people have come to realize that the society cannot sustain the economic 'growth' forever. As many hard-core environmentalists have argued, our current economic model is based on materialistic consumption, which is basically extracting the nature to create wealth. Such economic model is ultimately not sustainable because our planet has only a limited amount of resources and that destroying our environment for economic 'growth' does not improve our living standards from a more holistic perspective.
The unfolding of the biggest economic crisis in decades and the increasingly alarming environmental disasters lead to a tipping point of public conscience about the relationship between environment and economy. Thomas Friedman, a long-time advocate of free-trade, globalization, and environmental technology revolution (which ironically contradict each other according to the hard-core environmentalists), has written a column urging for revisit of our concept of economic 'growth.' While there is nothing groundbreaking in his article (as the environmentalists have been saying this for years), it is good to know that someone in the mainstream media like Friedman has finally come aboard with the environmental critics.
Not coincidentally, the current issue (Spring 2009) of Green American (previously Co-op America Quarterly) focuses on the green economy and its implications to the environment and the future of our economy. There are some very good articles that take aim at the concept of economic growth and how we should redefine it. An online article "Rethinking the GDP" is a part of the discussion.
I will have a follow-up entry after I delve into the articles. Stay tune.