When discussing the environment, I often get into the same argument. I advocate for strengthening environmental protections at the state at federal levels and the other person often opposes those measure, concerned that more regulation would harm economic recovery and growth. I think that the “economy versus environment” argument is a false choice, for two reasons.
First, investing in newer, cleaner technologies will create new jobs, particularly ones in engineering, math, science, and manufacturing, all types of jobs that America desperately needs. Take wind turbines, for example. We need people to design and test them. We will then need trained people to build, transport, assemble, and maintain them. These are all positions that could be occupied by trained, educated American workers.
Second, if we have a planet with unbreathable air and undrinkable water because we polluted the fuck out of it, that 1% increase in last quarter’s profits does not really seem to count for much of it. Saying, “I am okay with relaxing caps on CO2 emissions to help the economy,” is akin to saying, “I will poison myself and everyone else on this planet for money.”
Ultimately, we have to make the decision about how badly we are willing to poison our air, water, and land in order to get some kind of an economic payoff. I would like to think that a properly-informed population would decide to give the environment’s stability more thought that the economy. There are jobs and there is no money in a poisoned world.