An inescapable outcome
A crisis is characterized by a sudden and decisive turning point. In economists' minds, the reversal of a “growth” indicator constitutes such a sign. The usual reference indicator is GDP, an aggregate of the National Accounts measuring “all economic activities generating incomes (in money or kind)”. Such an indicator is purely quantitative and does not really cover all activities, notably the domestic work carried out by each of us. Most importantly, it does not consider the impact of the economic activities on the society and the environment. Now, the social, environmental and institutional aspects are determinant in the development of a country. It resulted in the idea of creating a green GDP taking the economic impacts on natural resources into account. This means evaluating the resources, measuring their use and the impact of the economic activity on the environment by the yardstick of a monetary standard. To evaluate all this is a complex undertaking, which has not improved matters till now. Taking measures is already better. Applying them would be appropriate in these times of deep crisis.
Indeed, we are today facing a much deeper crisis than a simple reversal of an indicator, of which the financial aspect represents the visible part only. It is no longer possible to deny that the fabulous resources of the planet are not indefinitely extensible, that the income distribution is more and more unequal and that the institutions are too often just pretending to sort things out. The facts speak for themselves:
- Populations of homeless, destitute and poor people are growing constantly;
- Oil and raw material reserves are becoming more and more rare;
- Coastal zones are devastated and oceans emptied of their resources;
- Cultivable lands are deteriorated, threatened by erosion or turning into a desert;
- Air, water and soil are soaked with organic and chemical composites;
- The degradation of forested and marine ecosystems is accompanied by an inexorable loss of biodiversity;
- The booming of the urban life and the excessive extension of the cities generate mountains of waste and the disappearance of formerly cultivated lands;
- The frequency and extent of so-called natural catastrophes are unprecedented.
And the list is far from finished. Moreover, all that is happening when:
- The world demographic growth keeps going on;
- The conflicts and climate change risk generating massive movements of population;
- The so-called emerging countries are drawing on planet resources in the same capacity as the so-called developed countries.
If we stick to this outer world approach, we must admit that a “growth crisis” in the present world finds its origin in the deterioration of the social, environmental and institutional development aspects. We have reached a critical point where an orientation change is inevitable, whether we like it or not, where it is no more possible to limit his horizon to the “economic growth” only, even a strong one. In any case, if we took account of the social and environmental impacts of the “growth”, the growth rates, which are not too good, would constantly be in the red. Therefore, getting out of a world in crisis implies taking the various development aspects into consideration. Besides, one of the reason of the rejection of the European Constitutional Project in 2005 lies in the separated presentation of the economical, environmental, social and institutional components of development. It gave a torn vision of the politic and policies which was only reflecting the nowadays torn being.
This has resulted in the resurgence of the concept of sustainable development 1 destined to widen our views. Widen, an important word, for it is crucial to consider all these aspects together, to have an intelligent (from the Latin “intellegere” or taking together) vision of the world. An entirely economic or exclusively environmental view is destined to fail. Creating ecological reserves just in the middle of the surrounding pollution has no more sense than developing industrial zones without caring about their social and environmental impacts. We live in an interrelated world where any action in a domain has consequences on the others, where these interrelations do nothing but reflect the deep unity of the world.
This world unity is also reflected in all the creatures that are living in it, including human beings. They all are called to cross different states during their existence, from the most physical to the most spiritual while going through the psychic ones. Now, the present being is mostly developing the physical states and hardly the psychic ones. In so doing, he remains amputated from himself and has great difficulties in attaining the deep unity governing the world. How could a man understand (i.e. put together) all the aspects of the surrounding world when he does not even know himself ? Today, the world mostly suffers from a development crisis of the being. To open ones eyes on the outer world is a first step, but to open them on the inner world is the ultimate one.
1 back Let us note that the text of the European Constitutional Project does not refer at all to sustainable development unlike the Masstricht Treaty dating back to 1992 (Year of the Rio summit). An integrated presentation of the various aspects of development would have naturally resulted in political orientations carrying a vision and a shortened and more digest text.