Environmental concerns to fuel growth, study says

January 10, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Environmental concerns, once viewed as i conflict with the interests of business, will become a powerful engine driving a new industrial revolution, the Worldwatch Institute predicted in its 10th annual assessment of world conditions released yesterday.

But for the time being, the Washington-based environmental think-tank finds the world still losing ground on many of the problems that it addressed in its first report in 1984: pollution and the waste, over-consumption and depletion of natural resources by a rampantly expanding global population.

A five-fold growth in the world economy and a population expansion from 2.6 billion to 5.5 billion since 1950 "have begun to outstrip the carrying capacity of biological support systems and the ability of natural systems to absorb waste without being damaged," institute President Lester Brown says.

"In country after country, demands for crops and for the products of grasslands, forests and fisheries are exceeding the sustainable yield of these systems."

The report takes note, for example, of the unabated destruction of tropical forests, the over-harvesting of ocean fisheries and the depletion of ground water resources.

Bur Institute researchers Christopher Flavin and John E. Young suggest that the imperative of carrying out development in a way that preserves the environment already is shaping the global economy.

They cite statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that show a $200 billion market in 1990 for environmental goods and services, and project that the market would grow by 50 percent by the turn of the century. Such numbers, they predict, will be dwarfed by the demands for clean new technologies.

"The much larger demands of redesigning basic industrial equipment or creating new industries will likely be measured in the trillions of dollars," they estimate.

"Businesses are likely to prosper in the future, not by selling massive quantities of identical products -- the traditional route to economic success -- but by meeting consumer needs in the most efficient way possible: supplying 'energy services' rather than electricity, 'information' rather than a newspaper and crop protection rather than pesticides.

"Environmentally related industries will be a major source of new jobs in the '90s," they add.

Unless governments adopt conservation and development policies leading to the kind of reindustrialization described by Messrs. Flavin and Young, the world flirts with economic collapse, Mr. Brown suggests.

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