Browsing by Subject "economic growth and environment / nature"

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  • Sademies, Jenni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2018)
    In my thesis I analyzed the ongoing discussion about the relationship between economic growth and the environment by the means of content analysis and discourse analysis. As the continuously growing use of natural resources has a connection to many environmental problems, the functioning of the economy is essential when discussing the alternative solutions to environmental problems. I wanted to investigate what the discussion about the relationship between economic growth and the environment includes, and what kind of phenomenon is economic growth represented as. Theoretical frameworks I used were the environmental discourse analyses of Hajer (1995) and Dryzek (2005). I also paid attention to the organizations behind the discourses by classifying the writers due to the organization they represented. The material I used were texts published in the Internet, with no limitations concerning the form of the publication or the publisher. The only limiting factors I used, were the search terms. The material was taken from a database called “Economy and the Environment” (translation from Finnish), and it was not originally collected for this thesis, but for any scientific or educational purposes. I analyzed three discourses in the discussion concerning the relationship of economic growth and the environment: “Belief in growth”, “Green growth” and “Growth critique”. In Belief in growth, economic growth was an intrinsic goal. Pursuit for higher material standard of living was unquestionably a good thing. Belief in growth seemed to be the discourse especially for business interest groups. There were quite many academic writers too, but the academics were not mainly writing in belief in growth discourse, but were also presented in great numbers among the writers of all three discourses. In Green growth discourse economic growth was not an intrinsic goal, but was considered necessary for financing the welfare state. There were hopes that technological development, ecoefficiency and a transformation towards service and information economy would lessen the adverse environmental effects of economic growth. Technology had a major role in Green growth, and it was even seen as a major force itself, solving environmental problems without any role from the users. Amongst the writers of Green growth, Officials and members of the political Green party of Finland were presented in large numbers. In Growth critique discourse endless economic growth was seen impossible on a finite planet, and the ongoing strive for economic growth was seen to cause environmental and social problems. The discourse wanted to change our economic system, so that the pursuit for growth could be abandoned. Abandoning the pursuit for growth was seen also as a question of global equality: the rich countries were hoped to abandon the pursuit for growth, so that the developing countries would have resources left for growth. Compared to other discourses, amongst the writers of Growth critique, NGO’s, social movements, and civilians were presented in large numbers. The discussion about the relationship of economic growth and the environment constituted as a whole in such a way that in the discourses there were expressed opinions about other discourses and their writers. On the other hand, the discussion included many disconnecting elements. This was for example due to the underlying perceptions of environmental problems, and the nature itself, which differed clearly among the three discourses. This finding is convergent with the discourse analyses of Hajer and Dryzek. In Belief in growth environmental problems were local, and mostly described as pollution, which can be removed with the means of cleaning technology. Nature, in this discourse, was a collection of elements which can be used and organized by humans how ever needed. Also in Green growth environmental problems were mostly described as pollution, but the existence of other kinds of environmental problems were recognized as well. In this discourse the global scale existed, as there was a lot of discussion about climate change. In Growth critique environmental problems were seen as one big global crisis, caused by the excessive use of natural resources by humanity. In both, Green growth and Growth critique, nature was seen as a system of which humans are strongly dependent on. The weakest points in the discussion were related to the use of concepts of economics and environmental sciences, and weakly justifiable arguments. In Growth critique, some complicated concepts of economics and environmental sciences were used, which seemed to be poorly understood by the writers of other discourses. Green growth seemed to be suffering of a lack of historical perspective, especially considering the discussion about ecoefficiency, where strong presumptions about the significance of ecoefficiency in reducing the adverse effects of economic growth were made without any historical perspective. In Belief in growth there was incoherence with the concept of economic growth, and means and ends got mixed in the discussion about economic growth and wellbeing. In both Green growth and Belief in growth there were very weakly justified arguments about hopes for information technology and services creating immaterial economy. Interesting topics for future research in Finnish environmental discourse would be the discourse of Green politics, discussion about immaterial economy and the weaknesses in the arguments related to ecoefficiency.