The world is unfair. Today there is continued destruction of the environment by industry and households, and the allocation of these resources and the negative consequences is unfairly distributed. The developing world, which has not had the advantage of access to resources that allows for the same level of consumption in the developed world, has been the worst hit area whether one is referring to climate change, global warming or environmental contamination. Further, the world will become unlivable for all, developed and developing world alike, if there isn’t a reversal of trends regarding the consumption of energy and resources. Because of disparities in consumption globally there continue to be growing populations where an increase in living standard is needed, and this requires a greater access to raw, environmental and economic sources of power. There are multiple paradigms where sustainability and social justice are served, but each of them requires a climate that supports life, fresh water, thriving forests, prevention of toxic contamination, renewable carbon free energy, a source of nutritious food, and sustaining biodiversity (Conca & Dabelko, 2016). Without each of these it is not possible to build a better world with social, economic, cultural and political fairness to all people around the globe. Nations around the world have gathered over the past several decades to try to mitigate the impacts of rising greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damage (Conca & Dabelko, 2016). Most such damage is driven by two things- consumption of goods and energy by households, and consumption of goods and energy by industry. The future must involve changes in order for there to be a livable future, but this requires drastic changes in lifestyle for populations and a different approach to economic growth. As a government official from a member-state of OPEC I must consider two levels of this situation, that which occurs on the international stage between states, and that which affects my life and household as an individual.
The best possible future is indicated by a society in which independent people are given opportunities to develop themselves without harming the environment. In this vision of the future people can reach their unique potential and self-actualization in a world where the environment is not threatened, and resources and growth are shared equitably. People contribute their talents to society, and in return receive a fair income which provides them with the resources to develop their interests and their dreams. Reducing or preventing use of or stress on environmental resources is built into the core values of entrepreneurship, business, consumption and government policy. While the population of each state has the regulation and orientation needed for a better world, how does one ensure that this occurs between nations? This question is an important one which has more than one possible answer.
Fairness in the allocation of resources between households, between businesses and between nations is difficult to achieve in a world where resources are limited. The centralized governance of people should be focused on best supporting its people, but that seems to involve an inherent conflict with the need of other nations to access the same resources. On the other hand, the situation is best displayed by games theory, where each of the actors working together can best access an allocation of the resources. This is illustrated by the economic theory of competitive specialization, which proposes that each company specialize in that which it best at and in which it has a competitive advantage, and the result is a fairly allocated market which reaps the most value from use of resources and productivity (Paul & Jonathan, 1991). In addition, the central or national government should protect their population from encroachment on their resources or infringement of their right to a fair allocation of resources. There is tension in achieving this, as all states would require more than they have access to unless there is a way to ensure resource supply. This is where the circular economy assists in reducing conflict between nations, by working to promote sufficient supplies for all. Keeping within this model requires a fundamentally different model of industry, and the current payments of fines for contamination and similar regulation which allows continued damage in the name of economic progress cannot be tolerated. It is in the interested not only of the individual nation, but all nations to curb such activity given the interconnected nature of the ecological foundation of the environment.
There is a potential issue with any of the scenarios when it comes to development and productivity. As a government official from an OPEC member state I have concerns about resource use in the pursuit of any future, including the use of water, non-renewable resources and renewable resources. Further, there is responsibility for the cleanup and rehabilitation of the problems that already exist. Even if, on an individual level, each independent person has opportunities to use their potential without limitations, there continues to be a need for clean, fresh water and resources. Resources continue to be limited, and the Earth’s population continues to grow. Increased participation in democracy has helped to ensure a better balance of power between the views of all stakeholders. A circular economy and flow of power help to ensure that this can be maintained by reducing waste and overconsumption.
In the circular economy model the waste of every process becomes the input to another process (Ning, 2001). There are clear benefits to the environment through this approach, but it also represents economic advantages (Ning, 2001). This philosophy provides the means of salvaging all possible value from all raw materials and resources. It provides sustainability through longevity of the resource which ensures abundance with sufficient initial resources.
Conflict may arise because each state has different needs based on their stage of development, the internal resources which are available to it, and the extent to which that state is responsible for the current state of pollution and environmental degradation.
Take for example water. Even in a world where participatory democracies are the norm the water supply is limited (O’Neill, 2009, 41). In addition to this water represents actions that either remove resources from use by another party, including OPEC members, or it can even represent an action which threatens economic function in another country (O’Neill, 2009, 41). If there is no abundance of water, then water must be allocated fairly, but there is no fair allocation when the supplies are insufficient; the result is a deficient amount of water available to all parties. Water may be needed by multinational companies and industries in order to ensure economic activity and growth.
If one looks at natural resources as the main driver of security tensions, then in a realist perspective there will be continued problems between nations, with the need to allocate a portion of available resources to defense and offence on the international stage.
A fair future requires fairness at all levels, including the community, the national level and between nations. In order to achieve this, participatory democracy would require an in-depth understanding by populations of the reasons why intergovernmental concessions and ensuring fairness for and supporting other nations and their environmental power are important. A population with a realist or neorealist view will not elect the politicians that compose a government which is poised for collaboration and cooperation of the type needed for a thriving circular economy based on a circular flow of power. The best approach for ensuring a better and fairer future may therefore be to teach liberal philosophies of power which promote it.
- Conca, K., & Dabelko, G. (Eds.). (2014). Green planet blues: Critical perspectives on global environmental politics. Westview Press.
- Ning, D. (2001). Cleaner production, eco-industry and circular economy [J]. Research of Environmental Sciences, 6(000).
- Paul, H., & Jonathan, Z. (1991). Flexible specialization versus post-Fordism: theory, evidence and policy implications. Economy and Society, 20(1), 5-9.
- O’Neill, K. (2009). The environment and international relations. Cambridge University Press.