Economic growth or grimmer: Amidst the Coronavirus

    07-Mar-2020
Jinine Laishramcha
Coronavirus outbreak is becoming the most infamous distressing news for human beings at the moment as if the spread of this new virus kills millions all over the world. Now, my curiosity is that how we will rationalize the fact that air pollution kills more than 6 million people every year leaving more millions suffering from air polluted health problem. Airborne pollutants are responsible for about one third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer, as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack.
Whether one likes it or not, in the meantime one aspect of the coronavirus outbreak is the profound reduction of toxic air pollution in China, South Korea and some other countries as well. It is because human activities of market economy and consumerism have been axed. How will we rationalize this fact? Will we relate it in a perspective of bright side of the virus? Will we rationalize it again in a rebuttal way that this clean air comes down at the cost of thousands of lives and businesses and market economy?
Then go reverse and rewind today’s modern world of economic development at the height of comforts and conveniences in the era of artificial intelligence, we do find that it comes down at the cost of Mother Nature, poisoning the air and water, and future offspring. Further with the little notice and awareness, the ever growing gap between haves and have nots, the ever distressing spread of inequality is rather spiral going out of proportion.
Interestingly, respective governments across the world show their serious concerns too over the virus activity.  On a worry and misery spectrum, no doubt COVID-19 displays many a dark lights of deaths, massive infection, suspension of daily activities, closures of offices, more importantly paralyze of market, trade and commerce. It appears that, this time around most of the governments, their diplomacies, a good few commercial agents, though there may be some doubts profiteers of pharmaceutical industry and bankers be sincere and serious. The eventual issue and apprehension is the loss in businesses. Economic damage done by this virus seems to be rather more important than the actual challenge in health sector, and of course, the loss of human lives.
The big worry is economic side of the COVID-19. As we the humans are so accustomed to profit making activities of selling and buying of goods and services, we do forget bad side caused by consumerism and market economy. We do not want to talk about the serious adverse impact of market economy.
Once this killer virus is gone, and businesses come back to their normal places, remember we will start exploiting Mother Nature again, producing more toxic substances making air and water dirtier towards making up the previous losses. Here the simple question is that why all these businesses for? The answer is for growth and money. Regarding money, in fact we need money but not for fulfilling our real needs any longer. We want money to satisfy our greed otherwise.  The money is not anymore for a modest livelihood but buying cars, flashy gadgets, clothes and endless items.
Here I am going to relate coronavirus to my earlier write-up Growth but the Grimmer.
The extraction of natural resources increased from 22 billion tons in 1970 to 70 billion tons in 2010 (Reuters); now, it is about 180 billion tons annually. The world emitted 37 billion tons of CO2 in 2017 (CarbonBrief). Consequently, global solid waste generation is on a pace to increase 70% by 2025, rising from 3.5 million tons per day in 2010 to more than 6 million tons in 2025 making unclean Mother Earth. The global cost of dealing with all that trash is rising too; from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025, with the sharpest cost increases in developing countries (World Bank).
The earth is losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually impacting increased greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, disruption of water cycles and water scarcity, increased soil erosion, disrupted livelihoods and overall ecosystem of the blue planet (WWF).
The global solid waste generation is to increase 70% by 2025, rising from 3.5 million tons in 2010 to more than 6 million tons per day in 2025 making unclean the mother earth. Every minute, one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean. Yearly, a colossal 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in our beautiful oceans. Of this waste, much of it is plastic. There have been 275 billion plastic bags produced worldwide in just 2017 alone. Every second, a massive amount of 160,000 plastic bags are being produced and used. By the end of this year, we will have used 5 billion plastic bags. According to The World Count of these 5 billion bags, 5 million of them will make their way into the ocean.
Global water pollution caused by untreated toxic industrial discharge, contamination with chemicals from modern market and human waste makes 80% of wastewater of the planet. This impacts the habitat and quality of life of fish and other wildlife.
About 1.2 billion world population live in water-stressed areas. Some 600 million Indians are facing sever water crisis. Indian 21 cities are likely to run out of groundwater by 2020 (NITI). To achieve its goal of becoming a leading global power by 2050, China which hold 20% of the world’s population is also facing its looming water shortage.
Human wants are unlimited therefore we get always confused our real needs with greed. Usually, we want to gather things as much we can. What’s why through selling and buying activities, humans work to get more than what we had before, which called profit.
On top of this, humans sacrifice our lives and time to make new ideas or products, sometimes out of thin air to sell to someone in order to make profit. Inequality in society gives opportunity for market.
If we all have same amount of wealth and wellbeing, no one will sell and buy kidney.If all people are healthy, doctors and chemist related industry will lose their market and business, people in health sector are not happy when there occur little diseases and deaths. So, more medicines are made by pharmaceutical companies in order to generate job employments and business growth.
Coffin makers are not happy when less deaths happen there. Hence, do we need maintain a potential gap between where the demand and supply flow to run market dynamic always profitable?The simple fact is that market economy is vigorously selling products to the consumers with persuasive advertisement taking advantage of the “human wants are unlimited”. It is done without disturbing interference from the governments.
Therefore, to make money, in the process, the resources and energy are snatched ever more freely from the Mother Nature as if they were unlimited, and consume them ignoring that our offspring also need this same limited resources.
For sure, market economy always should take into account the fact that growth of balloon is limited, cannot be inflated beyond a certain bulging size. The frequent forgetfulness among the profit hungers makes growth mere bubbles. That’s why now and again the bursts bring all sort of miseries to the highly industrialized world.
The writer is Asst Prof, International College, the University Suwon, S Korea