It is important to understand the role that economic indicators are playing.
If the following rings true to you, please consider passing it along.
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A New Economic Model
Our ways of recording economic growth prevent us from creating a healthy society. Our current system of measuring a successful economy is to report each expense or product as a unit of economic growth.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is reported as a success regardless of its effect on public health or the natural environment.
If a new hospital is built for children because of the rising number of children with cancer, asthma and developmental problems, that is economic growth.
If we pay a million dollars to treat a person for cancer, we have economic growth.
If there is clean-up after a large spill in a uranium mine, this creates employment, consumes goods, and is measured as economic growth.
In our society “Growth” is seen as success.
In this system, a corporation is required to pay for its internal operating costs only.
If it depletes or pollutes the water supply, it is allowed to avoid these “external” costs.
Expenses resulting from environmental degradation, including health costs are paid for by ordinary citizens from the public purse.
Yet it is recorded as “economic growth”.
Safeguarding our Natural Heritage
In the early 1980’s the lakes in northern Saskatchewan were healthy.
Today, lakes in Northern Saskatchewan are dying, as reported in the spring publication from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME).
Despite the consequences of the sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from tar sands developments, there are proposals to increase production in Alberta and to develop the tar sands in Saskatchewan.
Acid rain from petro-chemical projects in Ontario and Quebec is a well-known outcome of the work of Suncor and other transnational corporations. Abnormal birth statistics, cancers and other problems created by their operations in the corridors from Sarnia to Windsor and London is currently in the news.
When the exploitation of resources is complete, the transnationals will return to the U.S., Europe and Asia with their profits, leaving us with the ill health effects and badly damaged land and water.
Creating a Healthy Society
“I am saddened by the deaths of my friends from cancer,” …. “Two of my brothers have also died from cancer; they all worked in the uranium mines.”
By allowing corporations to pollute in the name of economic growth (falsely-measured), we are allowing health risks and environmental damage to continue and to escalate.
Both ruling and opposition parties have failed in their stewardship role during the past 25 years. It is the job of the government to protect air, land and water – “the commons”, that upon which we all depend for healthfulness and survival.
It is the job of citizens to call them to account.
A first step is to re-define our indicators of “growth” and health.
The indicator that should be used for health is the trend lines for disease and developmental problems in Saskatchewan. If those lines are in a relentless upward trend, then obviously our healthcare dollars are being spent in the wrong place. “Wait times” tell us that we have an excess of patients.
The Earth is man’s only friend. When we poison her, we poison ourselves.
The Green Party supports a sustainable society that uses resources in a way which benefits our generation and those of the future.
We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the resource limits of Saskatchewan and our planet.
Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada gives guidelines (Nov 2007, CBC):
1) Clear sustainable development strategies are needed to create better economic well-being.
2) Establish meaningful action plans with deadlines, and consequences to make them effective.
3) Hold government to account for meeting good management objectives with regular audits to validate facts and press for implementation of action plans and agreements.
I invite you to join with us to move to an energy efficient economy. We will live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.
Leader, Green Party of Saskatchewan
REFERENCES (INPUT FROM VARIOUS PEOPLE)
Lazslo Pinter writes:
There is a movement under way that already picked up this issue and is getting stronger and gaining political attention, though not yet enough in Canada, but hopefully we will get there.
In particular, I would note:
- http://www.csin-rcid.ca/ (This link works, even if it shows not. Canadian Sustainability Indicators Network)
- (Link no longer valid: http://www.atkinsonfoundation.ca/ciw)
There isn’t a quick fix and we are a long way from getting to the bottom of this problem, but if we don’t, we continue to carry the burden of a flawed accounting system at enormous costs in almost everything we do.
By the way, the need is not only for helpful *economic* indicators.
My apologies. I lost track of who contributed this:
I would recommend a book: “Growth Fetish” by Clive Hamilton (an economist who saw the light). I have a couple of chapters that were free online and will attach them. Another great book of his is called “Affluenza” and is well worth reading.
Leora Harlingten adds:
“I have a book called the economics of happiness. It has interesting stuff on economic indicators.
Also Marilyn Warrings work is good. She has a couple of films at the Saskatoon public library on economics.
There is also Michael Albert’s book = ‘Parecon’ on participatory economics. ===============================
Kathleen Cameron writes:
There is a very helpful indicator of complete cost analysis and it is called “life cycle analysis” and instead of our society basing its success on the GDP as it presently is, it should be based on the outcome of each and every “life cycle analysis”. This indicator takes into account the cost of all of those items that you indicate below and more – it takes into account “all of the costs” of a particular product throughout its entire life, i.e. therefore with the uranium industry, it would take into account the cost of a reactor from the time that uranium was in the mining process through to the end of the life expectancy of the uranium, i.e. when it was no longer a danger, e.g. how many hundreds of thousands of years? This particular life cycle analysis would therefore only change if they came up with a useful product that could be recycled from all of the products of the initial reactor. The analysis can get very detailed however it brings into light ALL of the actual costs of a product in mind.
Again, what is the cost of a pharmaceutical? Something as simple as advil or Tylenol – hundreds of thousands of these pills get utilized by the general public on a daily basis and the majority of the medication ends up in the urine stream and typically ends up in water supplies. Once in that water supply it breaks down into carcinogenic components initially and eventually becomes inert but not until after it has damaged our environment. This information would be included in life cycle analysis and the pharmaceutical company would be required to “pay the cost” or actually the final end user since that cost be transferred on. Personally, I think it would force a lot of people to use more environmentally practices, i.e. many would go back to a lot of the “older” ways of doing things.