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The real culprit

GREEN ECONOMICS— BEYOND SUPPLY AND DEMAND TO MEETING PEOPLE’S NEEDS·Edited by Molly Scott Cato and Miriam Kennett·Green Audit·1999· £12·243p

By Sharmila Chandra
Published: Tuesday 15 August 2000

-- the term 'green economics' may sound like a placid, ultra liberal and a something-for-everybody kind of a concept, but this book which seeks to explain green economics and the future it perceives for mankind, flays the conventional discipline of economics for its smugness, its inability to address human needs and its propensity to sit on the high pedestal of confusing statistics, paradigms and methodologies which are beyond the reach of anyone other that academic economists.

This rather combative book has been brought out by Green Audit, an independent research and consultancy organisation serving the environmental movement. It was conceptualised on the premise that the environment is destroyed not by individual, community or state actions but by faulty economic systems that exist. It attempts to prepare a blueprint to change the present economic system which is environmentally and socially destructive and to replace it with a more benign system that goes beyond supply and demand and addresses human needs in terms of ethical resource allocation. This has been done through chapters contributed by illustrious green economists.

One of the most interesting chapters in the book is one on Green National Accounting by Sandrine Simon who is a researcher in the Department of Environmental Social Sciences at Keele University. It criticises the traditional systems of national accounting for putting a monetary value on the environment which is well nigh impossible. It also exhorts it to build into the accounting system, green concerns for management of our resources and our environment. It points out the utility of green accounting and gives examples of some countries that have made moves towards it.

Canada launched petroleum and forestry accounts as pilot projects in 1992 in order to constitute a base for the formulation of environmental policies and to make progress towards developing sustainability indicators. In 1978, the French government established a Natural Patrimony Account within its Environmental Informa tion Programme. The Nether lands embraced sustainability as an explicit goal in its policy framework. In the us , President Clinton has urged the incorporation of environmental changes into national accounting. In 1994, its Bureau of Economic Analysis released some very interesting work on Integrated Economics and Environmental Satellite Accounts.

A chapter by Chris Busby, the founding Director of Green Audit and Molly Scott Cato, Green Party's shadow minister for Employ ment, offer rather innovative thoughts. They propose a Planetary Impact Index ( pii ) that will tackle the industrial monster effectively. The pii would act like a spanner with the governments, which will enable them to exert pressure on industries to reduce the size of their planetary footprint. It would qualitatively rank both industrial processes and specific examples of factory situations with a view to minimising their detrimental impact on the planet and its inhabitants.

This book takes the conventional discipline of Economics head on in a fascinating display of aggression and common sense. It does so in an engaging style, devoid of high-sounding verbiage yet highly emotional, compassionate and holistic.
Interestingly, it is dedicated to an economist, Amartya Sen, "whose commitment to build a moral economics had finally been recognised". A must read for all who want to ensure a happier, healthier future for our children.

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