The financial crisis of 2008 has moved, during 2011, into the real economy.
Severe adjustments pretend to be applied in Greece, Spain and Italy to place -back again- those countries into the path of economic growth. The biggest disagreements among social actors and politicians regarding economics lie over this question: how much does the State has to interpose in each country’s economy to ensure growth?

However, I feel there’s a second question that is even more important that this first question: Can sustainable economic growth be secured?; in case this is possible: what are its distinctive characteristics?

There are two possible answers for that question. On one hand, some people say economic growth has disengaged from the real world and that it’s imposible to apply recipes of unlimited growth to a finite planet. In contrast, others still defend the physic, ethic and economic viability of the economic growth. Those who are in favor of this last posture recommend redistributing wealth all around the world as a way of increasing the individual welfare and, in some other cases, the economic decrease.

In the international level, driven by the United Nations, there are two principal complementary conceptions on economic growth and its relationship with the environmental sustainability.

  • The first conception is the green economy which implies taking advantage of the economic benefits provided by the investment on renewable energy sources. The United Nations Program for the Environment defines the green economy as an economic system, compatible with the natural environment and socially fair. This approach has received plenty of attention from 2008 onwards since the investments required for “turning green” the world’s economy are intensive in terms of work.
  • The second conception, which is wider than the first one, exposes human development and says that the economic growth is just one way through which we can reach larger substantive freedoms and welfare. This approach was first defined by the famous economist and Hindu philosopher Amartya Sen and adopted by the United Nations Program for Development. With this focus, development is understood as the increase of individual’s capacities to adopt, freely, the life they want for them. Development is considered from a multidimensional point of view where economic growth is one more dimension among the others, with no especial primacy.

Both the green perspective and the human development approach intend to find, differently but not necessarily contradictorily, the conciliation of economic growth and environmental sustainability.

From the point of view of environmental economy, our planet is recognized as an entropic system. Therefore, all the economic activity currently being developed reduces the available energy for the future. As youth: how can we make compatible our intentions of achieving our aspirations together with sustainability protection and the right for future generations to accomplish theirs?

Other links to read on the three approaches exposed: