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Environmental Sustainability or Economic Growth?

Updated: Mar 5

Author: Sophia Xu

Editors: Galiba Anjum and Shannon Tan

Artist: Nicole Wang

There is a long debate between economic growth and environmental sustainability. When you walk along the street, you will see environmentalists presenting protests about prospering economic growth and ignorance about environmental pollution. On the other hand, there are famous economists — mostly on economic news — persuading their audience on how important economic growth is. I do not accept the point of view that ‘environment’ is the opposite of ‘economic’. We can have a thriving country with an unspoiled environment, as long as we want to reach both.

First, to protect the environment, we need to change the trend, but not everyone’s daily life. Imagine that the government carries out a policy where all citizens are forced to take public transportation during rush hour. Some people might even quit their jobs and move to the suburbs! It is impossible to make a sweeping change, but we can do what we can to change people’s preferences. For example, young Americans seem less interested in owning cars than their older siblings and parents. But, you can still see young people sitting in their Lamborghini. The truth is: more and more young people turn to green engineering and care about environmental sustainability, but they can still travel by car.

Secondly, the environment actually benefits from economic growth. It is ironic that some environmentalists, along with some climate deniers, share the belief that we must trade off economic growth with environmental protection. We can and must accomplish both. In 2016, the Mobike app was first released in Shanghai, China. Many young people switched to commuting by shared bikes. But remember, the bike is located, guided, and charged all by phones and QR code — a new type of technology. It is undeniable that technology does not come from the environment, but it is a type of product of economic development. I prefer to regard technology as the bridge between the environment and economy. With technology, there is a positive relationship between the environment and the economy.

The hunger for easy money, short-term profits, and ideological rigidity lead some to believe that the environment must be sacrificed for economic growth. However, the long-term economy is closely related to environmental sustainability. We should keep in mind that a thriving civilization may suffer from environmental pollution, but it will solve the problem. You can’t have your cake and eat it too — but paying much effort, we can.



Cohen, Steve. “Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability.” State of the Planet,

Earth Institute, Columbia University, 27 Jan. 2020,

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