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Developing A Green Economy

The current UK economic growth model is primarily focused on increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Whilst it has produced growth and increased incomes for some, it has left others in poverty and increased the gap between the highest and lowest income earners.

It has also caused serious and irreversible damage to the environment. A green economy seeks to limit these effects by advancing more sustainable lifestyles that achieve environmental and social well-being as well as economic growth.

A recent global assessment found that close to 60% of the world’s ecosystem services had been degraded or used unsustainably. The planet is being damaged by erosion of the stratospheric ozone and the consequences are seen in climate change, flooding and droughts in different parts of the world, poor air quality and health problems, ocean acidification, deforestation, the loss of many species of animal and fish life, the damage done by pesticides and other pollutants.  From a Christian perspective the current generation are proving to be irresponsible caretakers of God’s Creation and future generations will inherit these consequences and the financial burdens of coping with them.

It is possible to see the last 25 years as one of real progress, at least from some perspectives. The impact of such diseases as malaria, small pox and measles is much reduced and life expectancy is increasing. The number of children who die each day has been halved and millions have escaped poverty. But there are still more than a billion people trapped in absolute poverty. Moreover, the global population is projected to rise from 7.2 billion to 7.7 billion in the next four years and most of this growth will be in the poorest countries and will increase pressure on land use and non-renewable resources as well as food and clean water.

The tragic truth is that the more we succeed in economic development the more we damage the planet and its support systems. There is an urgent need to become responsible caretakers of God’s creation and adopt public policies that arrest this trend. That includes giving up the use of high carbon emitting fuels and replacing them with wind, solar and water driven energy sources and possibly increased use of nuclear energy if safe means of disposing of nuclear waste can be developed. It also means making polluters pay the full cost of their pollution, encouraging them to stop polluting. Petrol and diesel driven vehicles are one of these polluters. Auto-manufacturers need to be pressed to produce low carbon alternatives. Hybrids are a step in that direction as would be switching to public transport in urban areas. The use of plastic bags and packaging needs to be abandoned and charging for bags was a positive move but more radical lifestyle changes are needed.

Those changes are unlikely until a majority recognise that the planet is not ours to use as we choose. “The earth is the Lords and everything in it” as the Psalmist and St Paul[i] understood. Christians need to actively support groups like Arocha in understanding the implications. Radical change also needs cross-party consensus to shape long-term public policies for environmental sustainability. We owe this both to our Creator and to future generations, who will live with the consequences of our environmental irresponsibility.

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