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Transcript of TOK Presentation
How do we know when damage to the ecosystem justifies economic growth?
My friend and I stumbled upon an article online that highlighted this issue and that got me to thinking, is economic growth more important than bats, are bats important for the survival of the ecosystem and if so how is the decrease in their population affecting other animals.
Both me and my friend wanted to find answers for those questions and so I went about researching a way to measure the amount of damage the economic growth is causing our ecosystem.
From that, the knowledge issue was generated and then analyzed:
The Bat Population
After examining the knowledge issue from an environmental/biological point of view, I looked at it from an economical point of view. I started by defining the term economic growth:
economic growth is
"an increase in the capacity of an economy to produce goods and services, compared from one period of time to another
I then formulated the following questions and went about answering them:
In order to get an answer to our knowledge issue, we need to expand on our question and look at it from human sciences and natural sciences
Real Life Situation
An article was recently written about Real Estate agents destroying the Peru historical pyramid structure for economic growth. This has raised many issues with the people living in Peru as they are protesting about the logic behind tearing down a historical monument to build houses and buildings
1. How much economic growth is currently being made?
2. Is economic growth good? Why?
According to the research I conducted, economic growth has proven to reduce poverty around the world. A research program about this theory is currently underway to find out how much of a contribution economic growth has on our world and how it will affect our world in the coming years.
"The number of people living in extreme poverty declined dramatically, from 430 million people in 1970 to 52 million in 1998."
"The global economy grew by 2.9 percent in the third quarter, year-on-year. World growth increased in the second half of this year, after three years of deceleration, raising hopes that the downturn that followed the financial crisis of 2007-8 was nearing an end."
According to the article above, economic growth has been increasing ever since 2009, when the financial crisis was over. Following the increasing trend, predictions about 2014 are being made that say that economic growth will increase by 3.7%
In order to examine the knowledge issue from a biological/environmental point of view, I first defined the term ecosystem:
An ecosystem is
"a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment"
To examine this side of the issue the following questions were formulated:
1. How important is the ecosystem?
The ecosystem is important in our world because all living organisms depend on each other. A food chain is a perfect example of how important an ecosystem is. If one link in a food chain is missing then the entire system will fail and all the living organisms linked to that one specific link will start to decrease and eventually die. Lets take a closer look at a specific food chain. A grassland ecosystem consists of the following food chain:
Assuming that the grasshopper population decreased, toads will have less food to eat which will then cause a decrease in their population. Both the hognose snake and the hawk population will follow the same pattern and therefore the entire ecosystem will be affected.
2. How badly is the ecosystem being affected by economic growth?
"....the world has lost 40% of its forests in 300 years, and half its wetlands in just 50 years. More than one third of mangroves have disappeared in just 20 years and there is increasing soil loss, as well as severe erosion, and growing water scarcity.
According to this article, there are many costs related to economic growth that are affecting the ecosystem. The loss in biodiversity has increased wars, caused international tension between other countries and has affected the people that depend on land and nature to earn money.
"We are consuming the world's biodiverse ecosystem at an unsustainable rate and this is starting to have serious socio-economic impacts"
3. How many other animals are endangered because of the destruction of the ecosystem?
Besides bats, many other animals are in danger of being extinct due to damage being made to their ecosystem because of economic growth. Some of those animals include:
Many other animals are affected due to human disturbance and a decrease in their population has been noticed.
The ecosystem is not the only thing being affected by economical growth. The following examples are from articles that talk about real life situations where economic growth has affected our world:
Real Life Situation
This issue is important to me because, due to the destruction of the environment animals are being forced to move to residential areas where humans are living. This is dangerous to both humans and animals because it might lead to the death of humans and/or animals. An example of this is the incident that took place in the UAE where a group of bats infested a school and considered it their new shelter. This was due to the fact that their habitat was destroyed and the school had to exterminate the bats as they placed the life of many school children in danger.
Another example of this is the incident in California, where a mountain lion was seen roaming a specific neighborhood.
"A mountain lion was spotted strolling near a northwest hillside neighborhood in Glendale."
This was very alarming to the public especially because this was around the time of Halloween and so the public was warned about going out unprotected.
"With hundreds of trick-or-treaters expected to go door to door Thursday asking for Halloween candy, police remind residents to carry flashlights and travel in groups."
This issue is also important to me because of global warming. Due to economic growth, deforestation is increasing.
"Living trees absorb the earth's strongest greenhouse gas: CO2. About one third of atmospheric CO2 that is caused by humans is caused by deforestation."
With increasing deforestation comes the increase in global warming. This is significant as it affects the entire world, even though not everybody contributes in the activities that might increase it.
4. Where is growth/damage happening?
"Amid public outcry over China's increasingly unsustainable levels of pollution and environmental damage
(http://rt.com/news/china-pollution-economics-environment-898/). The following article discusses the government's action towards reducing environmental damage caused by the rapid economic growth China has been experiencing. Another example of where damage is occurring in China is the following:
“Economic growth in China is heavily invested in the development of manufacturing and heavy industries, export and fixed asset investment, and energy consumption is thus growing rapidly. In one sense, energy consumption underlies economic growth. Unfortunately, this rapid increase in energy consumption and the rise in pollution and carbon emissions reflects rapid economic growth but is adding to environmental harm on a global scale and having a tremendous impact on ecological systems.”
In the UK:
"natural resources are being consumed at an increasingly alarming pace."
Around the world:
"Over the past 30 years, 30% of the world's natural environment has been destroyed, populations of freshwater animal and plant species have been halved and natural forests have declined by 10%"
(http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story023/en/). This article talks about the changes happening to the environment and the main causes of these changes.
“Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide. In Latin America, commercial agriculture is the main direct driver, responsible for 2/3 of all cut forests....”
“...fuel wood collection, charcoal production, and, to a lesser extent, livestock grazing in forests are the most important drivers of degradation.”
5. Can there be economic growth without ecological damage?
While some people may argue that there can be economic growth without ecological damage, the government and people of China have a different opinion. After an outcry from the public about the increasing unsustainability levels of pollution and environmental destruction in China, the communist party has started placing more emphasis on environmental protection. One particular incident that pushed the communist party to take immediate action is when an eight year old girl living near a smog-chocked road in China contracted a lung disease that is usually associated with the elderly. The communist party is also worried about social instability that might be caused due to public outrage about the situation.
"..correct the bias towards assessing officials on the speed of economic growth and increase the weight placed on other indicators such as resource use, environmental damage, ecological benefits, industrial overcapacity..."
6. Where is growth occurring at the expense of ecological damage?
"...they were just using environmental protection as another way of generating economic growth and even if something causes a great deal of immediate environmental damage. they would still consider the short-term economic benefits"
"15 out of the 24 ecosystems...were being degraded or used unsustainably and the consumption of natural resources such as minerals and metals continues at an increasing pace."
"A mountain lion killed last month by a motorist on the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills was a visitor from the north that would have brought new genetic material to the isolated cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountains"
The freeway in which the incident has taken place was originally the mountain lion's habitat. Due to economic growth, the freeway constructed destroyed the mountain lion's habitat and lead to its deaths.
Thank you for your time
3. Is there a way to encourage economic growth and positively impact the environment at the same time?
Many corporate companies, such as The Body Shop, have implemented economic growth while having a positive impact on the environment. Their main commitments include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in their stores and and offices.
The construction site for the Dubai Expo is also working on having a positive impact on the environment while growing economically. The venue will be built to produce half of its own power and energy source and will be constructed in a zero carbon emission zone.