What Is the Relationship between Economic Growth and the Environment?

Geri Terzo

When there is economic growth, the environmental conditions in a region are likely to continually be in focus. For instance, in an growing and developed economy, there tends to be a higher number of vehicles on the road. Whether people are commuting to work or going on vacation, an increase in transportation could result in a higher amount of emissions that are released into the air. Economic growth and the environment are also tied by the amount of resources that a region is able to devote to the development of clean energy, which does not pollute the air.

Economic growth could lead to more cars being driven and a higher amount of emissions being released into the air.
Economic growth could lead to more cars being driven and a higher amount of emissions being released into the air.

An expanding economy is one in which the employment statistics are generally positive. Companies tend to be more profitable, which leads to greater opportunities for employees. In these conditions, a greater number of people are generally traveling to work. Economic growth and the environment are linked because of the possibility for more pollutants being released from the trains, cars, and buses that carry people to their place of employment. Although a growing economy has many benefits, it also underscores the affect that heightened transportation can have on environmental factors.

Through a period of economic growth, the standard of living is likely to improve for families and individuals.
Through a period of economic growth, the standard of living is likely to improve for families and individuals.

The stronger that economic conditions may be, the more probable that people will choose to go on vacation. In the summer, there are often more cars on the roads than usual. Consumers could be more prone to invest in cars that do not rely solely on fossil fuels, primarily oil and gas, when finances are intact. Economic growth and the environment become associated because the availability of vehicles that run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol, becomes relevant to people who can afford to purchase new cars.

Clean energy, which uses renewable sources for power instead of fossil fuels, continues to become integrated into electricity generation around the world. For alternative power sources to become part of the mainstream, however, it generally requires the financial support of federal agencies. Private sector investments also strengthens the sector's foothold in power generation. In this sense, economic growth and the environment are connected because of the dependence that clean energy sources have on the financial strength of outside parties. The more money that is devoted to clean energy, the greater the chances that a regional environment will benefit with fewer pollutants.

Through a period of economic growth, the standard of living is likely to improve for individuals and families. The more engaged that people are in society, the more probable it is that they will learn about the advantages of a clean environment. Awareness surrounding economic growth and the environment may become heightened, and the public could become more apt to participate in beneficial activities, such as recycling. This could have a positive impact on the supply of raw materials that are available and also contribute to less garbage in landfills.

Conversely, an upswing in the economy can also encourage consumers to spend more, ultimately leading to a higher amount of waste in landfills. Those who have more disposable income typically use that money to purchase more goods. An increase in consumables caused by positive economic growth can also have an adverse effect on the environment, as waste increases along with the damage to our environment.

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Discussion Comments


The issue with alternative energy, or actually, the reason that all business haven't switched to them is cost. Businesses are forced to do what is most efficient for them. Unfortunately, protecting the environment while producing can be costly. I'm sure that in theory, all of these businesses would prefer to use clean energy. But they can't afford it or they don't want to try. They just want to maximize profits.

What I'm trying to say, if profits and productivity are priorities, it's almost impossible to protect the environment in this process. We have to make the environment the priority but that might affect economic growth negatively.


@fify-- You're right and although we have not quite adopted policies and methods that prevent these issues entirely in the US, there has been some improvement.

There are actually organizations, academia and economists who emphasize the importance of sustainable development. This is about economic growth without harming the environment. Some businesses have already adapted clean energy and alternative energy technologies and procedures.


Economic growth does take its toll on the environment. It's not just car emissions but pollution from factories. Air, soil and water all get polluted. Some industries also destroy nature. For example, a forest may be cleared to set up a factory. This means less trees and a disruption of the habitat of animals that lived there.

I don't understand why governments and businesses pay more attention to these issues. Do they not realize that if we pollute and destroy nature, we won't be able to grow and produce anyway?

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