by Michele Tempera
The issue of economic growth has been at the heart of European policy for the last decade or more. In this context the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans are trying hard to revive their national economies after the explosion of the financial/economic/social crisis. Once we fully understand the importance of a healthy environment, we can try to consider its destruction as a relevant loss for the general public. We can also try to convert this loss into a measurable index to place it alongside other social, economic and financial indicators.
The impact of our economic model on nature is sometimes measured as the ecological imprint, which is not at the moment a scientifically accepted tool. This instrument is intended to estimate the sustainability (or in our case unsustainability) of human economic activities in terms of the environment and natural resources availability and conservation.
Despite the low popularity of this and other similar measurements, we know that every industry is strictly linked to the consumption of natural resources and the production of waste (in various forms) In the last decade this process, consistently expanding in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, has required more resources and space than the environment can tolerate. These economies are consequently using so-called natural “reserves”, resources that can not be replaced in the future.
We can divide the consumption of natural resources into two main categories: the first one is the direct use of resources, consisting of for example deforestation, consumption of soil through urbanization or waste storage, and overfishing. The second category is associated with the indirect consumption of natural elements, such as air or water, and with pollution generated by human economic and social activity.
Some examples of the second category are greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and overuse as a consequence of industrial production, the massive use of chemical agents in farming and biodiversity loss in general. Given the negative effect of the two categories of consumption, we can say that present-day policy trends, which seek to accelerate the pace of quantitative economic growth and the above-mentioned repercussions along with it, is not environment friendly and some countermeasures must be taken to avoid or decelerate the further and potentially fatal deterioration of the environment and life.
In Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the Balkans these considerations are more than marginal, for the governments are keen on pushing up growth rates regardless of environmental problems. Environmental regulation in each of these states is extremely permissive and in some cases almost non-existent because of the lack of enforcement.
Original title: Environmental indicator: an additional measurement for evaluating economies?
PECOB: Portal on Central Eastern and Balkan Europe - University of Bologna - 1, S. Giovanni Bosco - Faenza - Italy