Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees, but the Economy Does

by Sarah Panikkacherry – Honorbound

Scanning my surroundings from the fast-moving cab I watched as luscious Jamaican trees turned into construction sites for future tourist attractions. My cab driver sighed, “Just five years ago, all of these buildings weren’t here – all just nature. A nice boost for tourism which helps the economy, I guess.”

But would destroying this nature always have a positive impact on Jamaica?

Maintaining the environment is an integral but overlooked factor when considering the advancement of the economy. When faced with opportunities of factory expansion and production, it’s easy to forget that these means to improving business can also have negative impacts on the environment like polluting air, contaminating water, or chopping down trees. While this might lead to economic growth in the short-term, such burning of fossil fuels can also lead to devastating effects for future generations such as rising sea levels or global warming. This raises the question of whether it is possible to have a flourishing environment as well as a thriving economy built upon ever-growing businesses and technology. With the help of taxes, government regulation, and advancements in technology, improving the economy doesn’t have to mean destroying the environment.

Countries should begin considering the environment as an important factor in the quality of a national economy. For instance, China has risen as an envied global presence in the world economy with a national GDP of 9.24 trillion USD in 2013, the highest in the world at the time [1]. However, this GDP figure does not account for environmental degradation. When China’s State Environmental Protection Administration takes into account “Green GDP” figures, which consider the effects of damaging the environment, the true worth of China’s economic growth drops significantly, for expanding production might also mean using up natural resources too quickly [2]. When considering the true value of an advancing economy in the lives of its citizens, China should also remember the value of a good, long-lasting environment – healthier laborers, better resources, and a happier society. While these indirect benefits from a sustainable environment might be easy to overlook, they should still be considered in economic choices.

Respecting the environment when making these choices doesn’t always have to be from drastic change or policy. For example, “[governments] could increase tax on petrol (which causes pollution)”[3]. Petrol, a commodity used all over the globe, is a resource used in all stages of manufacture including energy-production and transportation. Therefore, imposing a tax on petrol would incentivize thousands of companies that must depend on petrol in order to conduct production to stray away from always relying on such environmentally damaging methods [4]. Such taxes can then encourage business to discover more innovative technology that doesn’t harm the environment when they do conduct production and create new factories.

While simple taxes on pollutants won’t end pollution as a whole, it is definitely a step in the right direction. By taking into account long-term environmental effects when boosting the economy, we can consider the lives of future citizens and the state of the globe while still advancing the world economy.


[1] “Gross Domestic Product.” Accessed October 21, 2016.

[2] “Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.” 46, no. 2 (2011): 197.

[3] “Economics and the Environment | Economics Help.” Accessed October 21, 2016.

[4] “Economics and the Environment | Economics Help.” Accessed October 21, 2016.






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