Last time I talked about the paradox between environmental choices. (i.e. being conscious of one aspect of “saving the environment”, almost inevitably increases another).
This time the question I debate most often is how to handle the environment/social paradox.
A lot of environmentalists are socialists too. The underlying principle of both is CARE. I care about people and I care about the world we live in.
But when you really start studying it, you end up with some very mixed messages.
Main debate for helping the poor – open up trade, stop subsidies to farmers and let the developing countries trade what they do best: agriculture. (WorldBank report for more info)
On the environment side though, do we really want to do that? Do I want my grain shipped from Africa? Aren’t they telling me to buy local? Shouldn’t I support my local farmers so that my food doesn’t have so much of an impact? There are numerous articles out there about how restaurants are “greening “themselves by buying local.
How do you do both? It’s a complex issue.
Just recently I wrote an essay on how to tap the $5 trillion market at the bottom of the pyramid (there’s a book on it)
Prahalad argues that multinational companies not only can make money selling to the world’s poorest, but also that they must undertake such efforts as a way to close the growing gap between rich and poor countries.
Interesting point of view. But therein lies the paradox. I’ll share with you my homework (nerd?…you bet;)
Many reports and even the WBCSD (World Business Council on Sustainable Development) are quick to point out the opportunities for being both profitable and sustainable. Nevertheless, gaining on both sides of this equation is trickier than stated. Once these countries grab onto the development ladder, it is hard to ignore their consumer good needs. Therefore, in order to protect the environment and grow sustainably, development must be carefully monitored so as not to degrade their systems more than they have been already. Perhaps then the question becomes not how to tap into this massive developing market, but how to do so in a way that does not lead to mass consumption of non-renewable products and wasteful systems. The inevitable path to western economic development is hard to sway from as the big emerging countries can contest. Innovation and perhaps a paradigm shift will be needed to ensure that capitalism can indeed by accomplished in a sustainable manner.
As RunDMC would say…. It’s tricky tricky tricky;)