I recently came across this interesting article which explores 10 ways in which the recession might help the environment. Although perhaps a little one-sided it shows how the recession might impact positively on sustainable development in ways we hadn’t necessarily considered or aren’t glaringly obvious. It emphasised to me just how interconnected economic growth and consumption are with sustainable development. I’ve taken a few of the most interesting from the article:

Reduction in land fill

Decreased consumption means less waste, particularly packaging. The US is thought to be one of the countries most severely hit by the recession and considering the US alone produces 25% of the world’s waste (despite having only 5% of the world’s population) the recession could lead to a significant decrease in overall landfill volumes.

landfill

A reduction in the number of mobile phones bought

Which also means a reduction in the number thrown away as fashion trends change and free upgrades make us part with a perfectly functioning, but ‘older’ models. This means less dangerous toxins are leaked into landfill and into the water table. The author of the article also argues that ‘mobile phones contain elements which are mined in majority from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sale of which funds a civil war which has killed up to 4 million people and wiped out half the world’s gorillas.’

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Reduced sales of SUVs (sports utility vehicles)

With reduced incomes,  gas guzzling cars like SUVS are being increasingly shunned for hybrid or fuel efficient cars.

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Consumption of inefficient foods reduced

The article argues that the majority of food grown is fed to livestock who are reared for meat and that 70% of all farming land is used for rearing livestock – and is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Growing populations and subsequent demand for meat in countries like China is exacerbating this trend, but rising costs of food and falling disposable incomes means that meat will be increasingly partially replaced by more ‘efficient’ foods like rice.

cow1suv

There are many more examples in which falling consumption might benefit the environment. My only concern is that these changes are fleeting and once the economy recovers previous trends in consumption and waste will continue unabated.

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