Sustainable economic systems are those focused on sustainable development rather than economic growth. In a preceding post we reviewed four types of economic systems and their implications for the environment.
In this post, we take a look at the environmental implications of three colored economies: brown, blue and green. It should be stated at the outset that most modern economies are a mixture of all three.
A brown economy is one in which economic growth is largely dependent on environmentally destructive forms of activity, especially fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
One of the byproducts of this form of economy are massive levels of climate change causing greenhouse gas (GHG) which includes carbon dioxide and methane.
Air and water pollution are defining features of this type of economy and it also includes a range of harmful impacts on biodiversity. In this system economic development overtaxes finite resources.
The blue economy, also called the marine economy is one that supports clean and healthy oceans, as well as coastal, and other aquatic ecosystems. This form of economy acknowledges that water is crucial to our financial, biological, cultural, and spiritual well-being. Although some have coined the term to apply to a comprehensive sustainability regime, in the context of this review, the blue economy primarily focuses on managing oceans, waterways and water resources.
The seas cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and they are a rich repository of marine life, sea-based food, sea-embedded minerals, and coral reefs. Oceans are under threat from pollution, warming and acidification.
In a blue economy we are tasked to create more livelihood for an increasing number of people with better management of finite water resources. This type of economy implies water stewardship which entails less pollution and less waste as well as greater efficiency.
Specific economic activities associated with this type of economy include, sustainable commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism, recreation, that minimizes marine pollution and uses of ocean and coastal space that do not result in direct use or consumption of resources. Coastal restoration, protection, adaptation and offshore renewable energy development are also important parts of this type of economy.
The UN succinctly defines the green economy as one that, “carries the promise of a new economic growth paradigm that is friendly to the earth’s ecosystems and can also contribute to poverty alleviation.” As indicated in a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report on the green economy (page 16) diverse strategies for economic growth and environmental stewardship can complement one another.
UNEP defines a green economy as, “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” This definition is in line with the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental).
The green economy is premised on economic production which minimizes emissions, reduces resource consumption and lowers environmental costs. Part of this approach involves recycling natural resources in a model of economic development that can merge the economic with environmental and social benefits.
In its simplest essence the green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.