Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series submitted by undergraduate students at Loyola University Chicago from a course called ENVS 363: Sustainable Business Management.
Humans are an incredibly unique species. We have extraordinary brain power allowing us to express and process emotions, solve complex problems, and form meaningful relationships with our peers. We have intrinsic inclinations to respond to various interactions and experiences. A striking characteristic shared among species is that of competition. This often comes in the form of fighting to control very limited resources. The economy is built around the need for constant and steady growth fiscally, especially on a global level. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic or feasible goal, as infinite growth cannot be achieved on a planet with finite resources.
The root of this competition can be traced to each country’s desire to grow its gross domestic product (GDP). Governments and corporations view a healthy GDP as a success when unemployment and inflation are in balance. This competition between GDPs is only going to increase as emerging economies join and take the global stage. Unfortunately, GDP cannot be looked at as the end-all be-all goal because it is not an accurate representation of how society is doing on a holistic level.
GDP disparities between the developed economies and those that are emerging create deep social injustices that hinder the development of the communities and the health of the environment. With a higher level of GDP, countries are able to accumulate high levels of power on the world stage. This is extremely prevalent when there are large western corporations that individually produce a higher GDP than several small countries combined. This inequality allows corporations to have more control over natural resources for them to exploit for their own fiscal gain. The pressure of exponential growth has further marginalized evolving economies. The demand for resources and cheap labor has taken its toll on poor communities and exploited them out of natural resources to satisfy western consumers’ wants.
Our consumption habits in the developed states are severely impacting the most marginalized communities throughout the world. The consequences of our actions are easy to ignore as they are staring us in the face each day. We are able to ignore the repercussions because we believe they do not directly affect us. Obsession with gaining control of resources and products has caused us to forgo thoughts of where these items are coming from.
The focus needs to shift back to a local landscape. Production that is close to home and on a smaller, less destructive scale, because so many emerging countries are working toward the creation of their own economy similar to that of the United States. If that occurs, the planetary boundaries will be pushed and stretched even further and will eventually rip at the seams. The Earth has a limited amount of resources that in due time will run out. When this happens there will be no feasible way to sustain human life that is if we are unable to understand the consequences of our actions. The course of our future can be changed to create a more viable and optimistic planet. A global solution to avoid this epic catastrophe is to dramatically change how business is conducted.
Instead of working to beat out competing markets, working together to create a more viable planet will benefit all involved. Rather than exceedingly applying immense pressure to the Earth in order to extract resources, countries can set up a program that works on the trade and aid of resources in exchange for more mindful business practices. Switching to a more cohesive and community-based economy is the only way to keep the planet alive in order to maintain life.
A sharing economy may be the answer to many of the global issues we are facing in modern society. We will be able to cut down on our consumption habits if we have the ability to borrow items from friends and neighbors. We will be able to localize goods as well as work with our international partners to set an example of what a new, successful economy can look like.