Money, money, everywhere, and not a drop to save the environment

I was looking online for the premise of my newest post, and I came across an interesting article that listed the 10 worst countries’ proportional environmental impact (based on their resource availability) and the 10 countries that had the most absolute impact.

While the 10 worst proportion-wise made sense to me, being countries such as Singapore (#1) to the Phillipines (#9), the ones with the worst absolute impact were a little frustrating. Included among these countries are the USA, China, Japan, Russia, and Australia, which are more or less considered 1st world countries. Brazil topped the list at #1.

What was really interesting to me was this:

The study, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and Princeton University, found that the total wealth of a country (measured by gross national income) was the most important driver of environmental impact.

“We correlated rankings against three socio-economic variables (human population size, gross national income and governance quality) and found that total wealth was the most important explanatory variable – the richer a country, the greater its average environmental impact,” Professor Bradshaw said.

There was no evidence to support the popular idea that environmental degradation plateaus or declines past a certain threshold of per capital wealth (known as the Kuznets curve hypothesis).

“There is a theory that as wealth increases, nations have more access to clean technology and become more environmentally aware so that the environmental impact starts to decline. This wasn’t supported,” he said.

The countries that make a large gross national income, countries that are the best equipped (economic-wise) to take care of their environments, are the ones that have a greater average impact. For all the study and research that we do to find new environmentally friendly ways to live and react with our environment, we still, as a richer societies, have the tendency to impact the environment far worse than lower developed countries. I find this very disheartening; the only way that I can see to make saving the environment a reality in richer countries is to tax and charge businesses and companies until it’s more economically feasible to reduce their impact than to get around it.



5 Responses to “Money, money, everywhere, and not a drop to save the environment”

  1. kylie says:

    You’re right, Dr. S.! Teapartiers would be furious! I wish people understood what we’re facing here and just how important the environment is. It’s life or death!

  2. Dr. Szulczewski says:

    Ha ha- we better not let the tea party people see this post, they’ll be furious that we all want more taxes!! But it just is a way to stop externalizing environmental costs- these things are not free and we’ll just pay later, in health costs, lost wages, etc.

    I’m curious about why the Asian countries were so high on both lists- I bet there’s a lot to how the data was analyzed in this particular study.

  3. lucy says:

    That looks like a very interesting article. I think most people can agree that at least in our country, being environmentally friendly is far from the list of important things to the government. I think taxing people and bussinesses is a great idea as well and some of that has been done and it has worked. If people would make the environment more important individually then the government would make moves to improve the environment. I think the problem lies mostly in the countries who are developing nations like China and Brazil. They are focusing more on creating a market that can compete with developed country and the environment is often pushed to the side.

  4. Liz says:

    In a way, this makes a lot of sense if you focus on how a lot of the wealthy countries get their income – oil and trade. Through the exploitation of energy sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, countries degrade their land and increase their pollution, but get substantial amounts of money in doing so. That goes for other trade items, such as food products and timber, where lands are being deforested and soils are being over used. It’s almost a catch 22 though, because the money allows for the technology to extract the resources and more resources extracted means more money for technology to extract the resources. Developing countries don’t have the money to extract enough resources to get rich and therefore are smarted on how to use the environment.
    I do think that excessive taxing would wake up sleeping industries to tighten their belt on environmental problems caused by the production of their goods. We are an intelligent country and enforcing laws will really make a difference, we just can’t be afraid to do it. I think a good solution is what you mentioned, “to tax and charge businesses and companies until it’s more economically feasible to reduce their impact than to get around it.” – LCG

  5. kylie says:

    This is very interesting, and a very good point. The thought that comes to my mind is, why, then, are we trying to further develop the rest of the countries in the world? Perhaps we should leave them alone and let them farm their own land with their own resources (the ones who have any left), with maybe a little help to regain what of their environment they have lost and some education to reduce the population, and stop stealing their resources. (I know, I know, it’s way more complex than this…)
    I agree with you on the taxing thing, by the way 🙂