The Great Challenge for 2013

Caring for our environment is an economic and moral imperative

Caring for and protecting Nature is seen as a luxury reserved for the good times. At the moment, concern for conservation is considered an impediment to economic growth so the environmental agenda is pushed to the bottom of the list of political and financial priorities.

But caring for our environment is a moral imperative, and never more so than now, as we enter a new year.

The priority for politicians, industrialists and business leaders is to build more airports, more motorways, more high-speed railways, more office blocks and more housing estates. This presents a great challenge to ecologists and environmentalists whose task now is to show that ecology and economy are not in contradiction with each other.

The problems of 2012 – the drought, floods and crop failures – have all been caused by human-induced CO2 emissions leading to climatic calamities. So the answer is not more of the same old paradigm and more of the same industrial economy dependent on fossil fuels, but progress towards a natural, sustainable and lowcarbon economy. And with this new perspective, the environment automatically becomes an economic imperative.

But the environment is more than an economic imperative - it is a moral imperative too. We, the present generation, have no right to take the forests, fields and fisheries from future generations. No ethical standards should permit us to fill our oceans with plastics and our biosphere with carbon dioxide. And it is the moral responsibility of every generation to leave the land in as good a shape – if not better – than when we inherited it from our ancestors.