GDP Is Contributing to the Environmental Crisis

It was announced that carbon dioxide levels in 2016 reached record-high levels and while the environmental crisis may not seem to be related to GDP, it is as well as many other global issues.

GDP, the value of all goods and services of a country, stands for Gross Domestic Product, and is used by economists to measure a country’s economic growth. Countries are therefore judged heavily based on their output of goods and services and so competition between nations evolve, resulting in leaders aiming to increase their productivity as much as possible. However, as any economist will know, GDP can be a poor representative of the well-being of individuals of a country.

GDP per capita is the GDP of a state divided by its population, taking out the extraneous variable of population, and giving a more accurate idea of the actual wealth of a country. It can make a big difference when looking closely at global rankings, for example China has the largest GDP, but is currently ranked 78th for GDP per capita, because its wealth has to be shared amongst its population of 1.4 billion. But even GDP per capita is inaccurate, as wealth is never evenly distributed, as most of the time it is held amongst the riches. This is seen again in China, where 1% of the population possess a third of its wealth.

The obsession of world leaders with GDP has resulted in neglect of the environment, a key issue as demonstrated by today’s headline. Some countries sacrifice vital forest land for development and others continue to build factories releasing harmful gasses into the atmosphere, while every day sea levels rise and threaten to destroy homes, habitats and entire species. The recent capitalist takeover as drilled a message of constant and infinite economic growth and at what price?

The U.S. has the second largest GDP, but its levels of racism, gun violence and hatred is unparalleled to the majority of third world countries without even half its output.

Measuring GDP encourages this mentality as it priorities economic growth above all else. What about social change, sustainability and equality? Why do we idealize maximum GDP, when some of the richest countries have the most problems?

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Srabosti Basu
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Student from England with an interest in human rights and journalism.

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