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Environmentally Sustainable Development in the Developed World

Effects of industrial development

Financial gain as the only measure of success

Capitalism has generated great wealth for a few and a better standard of living for many, however this has led to wealth being regarded as the only true indicator of progress. This is economic rationalism which recognises no other measure of success or efficiency. Yet economic efficiency is neither the efficient use of energy and resources nor the avoidance of waste and emissions.

More energy consumption and pollution

Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] have increased their consumption of fuel and production of greenhouse gases over the last 30 years. According to the International Energy Agency, consumption of coal, oil, electricity, gas and other types of fuel has grown by a third from 1973 to 2002. Carbon dioxide emissions have grown by more than 20% over the same period.

More waste production

An industrial country with the population size of Britain creates about 500 million tonnes of waste per year, including 25 million tonnes of household waste. In Britain, 85% goes into landfills, 10% into the sea, and 5% into incineration, deep burial and chemical solidification. In the USA and other countries, many landfill sites have been closed because they are full.

Social and cultural disruption

Economic rationalism and “letting the market decide” has meant the destruction of some industries, with subsequent unemployment and poverty. Large multinational corporations seeking ever cheaper sources of labour and raw materials have sometimes been responsible for this. Cultural disruption can come from relentless advertising and promotion of multinational products which not only affect sales of locally made food and other goods, but also influence consumer attitudes and behaviour.

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