Green comes from blue and yellow

I tend to believe that everything in this life has to do with opportunity cost. We always sacrifice something in order to get more of something else. With this speculation, I was wondering what the real cost of “green” technologies is and whether they are actually sustainable. How is it possible to achieve economic growth and technological development together with environmental quality? What about ecological modernisation and could this be deemed a utopian idea? Where is the opportunity cost? Numerous questions bombarding my mind…

Luckily, I came up with the paper “Green” Technology and Ecologically Unequal Exchange: The Environmental and Social Consequences of Ecological Modernisation in the World-System [1]. This piece of work reveals the cost behind the redemptive image of “green” technologies through some examples from the automobile industry. Here’s how I discovered that we are mistaken believing that clean technologies constitute the solutions’ dictionary to the environmental challenges of the twenty first century!

Although clean technologies are considered beneficial in the core nations where they are developed and instituted, they provoke further disastrous impacts in the periphery and semi-periphery [1]. The natural resources used in these technologies are extracted from peripheral regions, which causes severe environmental degradation and displacement of communities from their land [1]. Alongside with these aftermaths, human rights are abused as peripheral states often use violence and repression to facilitate the raw material extraction [1].

Focusing on ecological modernisation, according to the EU version, emphasises industrial efficiency and technological development without conflicting economic growth and environmental quality, while the American style incorporates the concepts of national security and blatant consumerism [2]. However, it has been proved to be extremely weak sustainable [3]. This is because ecological modernisation is regarded a counter theory to Neo Marxism and de-materialism.

Moreover, the article from Financial Times Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable indicates that the shift to environmental technologies carries an extremely costly burden [4]. More specifically, it gives insights into how the transition to “green” energy is capable of disrupting even entire industries; companies all around the world face severe problems such as writedowns, shrinking sales and sliding share prices. Yet, it can shut down departments or whole companies making thousands of workers redundant.

Consequently, if we see what’s concealing at the backstage of “green” technologies we instantly acknowledge that they are not as sustainable as they are heralded to be. Like the well-known saying “all that glitters is not gold”, I can say that all that is apparently green didn’t come from something green; anyway we create green by mixing blue and yellow!

Maria Zani, May 2018

 

References:

[1] Bonds, E. and Downey, L. (2018). Journal of World-Systems Research. [online] Available at: http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~mli/Economics%207004/Vol18n2_Bonds_Downey.pdf

[2] Schlosberg, D. and Rinfest, S. (2008). Ecological modernisation, American style, Environmental Politics, 17:2, 254-275, DOI: 10.1080/09644010801936206.

[3] Anon, (2018). SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND ECOLOGICAL MODERNIZATION: A RADICAL HOMOCENTRIC PERSPECTIVE. [online] Available at: http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/GGRB20/eco%20modernization.pdf.

[4] Ft.com. (2018). The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/44ed7e90-3960-11e7-ac89-b01cc67cfeec.

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