Some people think pollution and damage to the environment are a necessary consequence of a country developing and becoming richer.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?

China is the current poster-child for the correlation between development and environmental damage due to its rapid growth and vast pollution, but it not alone in this problem. Nonetheless, the argument that this is a necessary connection that has always existed is false, as it is only within the on-going age of manufacturing and population explosion that substantial injury has been done to the planet. An alteration of social circumstances and economic expectations could result in the breaking of this trend.

Pollution itself is not caused by wealth, but instead generally results from three primary causes: production, consumption, and population. In the last three centuries all have rocketed, with the result being more is made and discarded than any other time in human history, and the infrastructure to serve people (housing, roads, sanitation) has stretched horizontally and vertically. Regardless of a nation’s income, an intelligent managing of all three aspects would reduce environmental cost.

The fundamental problem, however, is that the current economic model is fuelled by the three causes of pollution. Continuous growth and success via GDP are both more easily attained by making more products and having more consumers, and therefore manufacturing, consumption and population growth are all encouraged. This unhealthy cycle needs to be removed, replaced instead with a measurement of wealth via standards of living (often achieved with smaller populations requiring less consumption and only intelligent infrastructure). Essentially, much of modern day pollution is caused by a mindset that considers its causes catalysts to success.

Achieving the switch from one model to the other will not be easy for some countries, especially those such as China whose population is already immense. Yet that alteration in thinking – learning that it is not how much money that is made that is important, but how money is a single tool used to improve overall conditions – is possible and proves the link between development and pollution is not unconditional. It is now up to the willpower of people to make the change.