The issue of progress and its contribution to the amounts of pollution in some of the developing countries is a complex issue, for objective assessment of which it is necessary to consider the best interests of all the involved parties, which is sometimes difficult to do as it is usually the affluent people whose voice and interests matter the most. In the case with pollution caused by rapid economic development, it is, in fact, the poor who have to pay the price and who risk getting stuck in poverty because of environmental regulations imposed by the developed affluent countries that benefit from outsourcing all the environmentally-hazardous manufacturing to poor countries in the number of ways.
Pollution is indeed an inevitable side effect of economic growth. Today’s developed world has been through a century of overly-polluted cities before they were able to reach the affluence they enjoy today and before the richer people started valuing the clean environment in the places where they lived. This environmental consciousness has imposed stricter environmental standards on manufacturers, who in response made use of the advanced communication technology and transportation to move the polluting production lines overseas. There, they made use of cheaper labor and lighter environmental regulations to produce the same products for fraction of the cost. Hence, clean airs, water, and soil were sacrificed in the name of profits.
It is the poor of the world who suffer the pollution from economic growth the most. For one, it is usually their land that is used to build polluting factories because it is cheap and because poor people do not usually possess sufficient economic, social, and political power to take action against the production site they would rather not have in their area. Hence, not having the means to move to a cleaner area, poor people are forced to suffer the diseases and inconveniences caused by pollution. Secondly, as mentioned in the case study, economists themselves recognize that health-related consequences of poor air and water quality tend to be more expensive for businesses in places where people earn more, while locating the polluting factory in the place with lower wages offers an opportunity to cut costs on health insurance and other payments (Shaw 358). Reasoning this way, they openly recognize that lives of poor people are less worthy than that of the rich, which is an unethical position in its nature.
True, populations of the developed nations actually value the jobs and income the polluting industries offer them and are ready to put up with pollution to have a chance to overcome poverty (Wong). However, in many cases, it is actually the citizens of affluent countries who benefit the most from these industries as they get to enjoy the better environment and cheaper products, which stimulates the consumption growth and causes even more pollution. This state of affairs cannot be considered environmentally just because clearly, affluent nations openly exploit the population and natural resources of developing countries. In order to restore the balance, it would be ethical to include the environmental and health costs of production into the price of products for consumers in affluent countries to pay a fair price for the damage their consumerist way of living is causing.
Lastly, it should be emphasized that despite the severity of the pollution problem, imposing the environmental standards of developed countries on the developing nations may interfere with their chances of catching up on their development. At the same time, waiting for industries operating in the polluted regions to reach economic prosperity that would motivate the upgrade to greener technology (Payne) is not a good idea, as most of the profits from such production are enjoyed not by locals, but rather by companies from the developed countries. Instead, the cost of upgrading the production lines with more efficient technology should be laid on consumers in affluent countries as they benefit from this practice the most.