Saturday, March 8, 2014

PF April 2014 - Economic Development vs Environment in India - Definitions


Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.

Introduction

I understand the NFL wants to place a focus on central Asia, but seriously, how many times do students need to debate development versus environmental protection? Especially, when there are so many other compelling issues in the region.  Here is a quick review of related articles and I strongly suggest you simply look at the links, read the articles, review the sources and cards, and have fun.

LD Jan/Feb 2014 Environmental Protection vs. resource extraction

The following links are not directly related but may provided some good cards or ideas.
LD Nov/Dec 2011 Moral obligation to assist the needy
PF Jan 2014 - Developmental aid in the Sahel
PF Oct 2012 - Moral obligation to mitigate climate change


The following resolutions from the past covered similar debates.

Past PF topics:
October 2009: Resolved: When in conflict, the United Nations should prioritize global poverty reduction over environmental protection

Past LD topics:
January/February 2004 - Resolved: a government’s obligation to protect the environment ought to take precedence over its obligation to promote economic development
November/December 2001 - Resolved: a lesser developed nation's right to develop ought to take priority over its obligation to protect the environment
March/April 1990 - Resolved: development of natural resources ought to be valued above protection of the environment.
March/April 1983 - Resolved: protection of the environment should take precedence over the development of natural resources.


Definitions


prioritizing (prioritize)
Merriam Webster - "to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first".

From Google:
Designate or treat (something) as more important than other things
Determine the order for dealing with (a series of items or tasks) according to their relative importance.

Having just recently debated an extremely similar LD resolution, we learned the word 'prioritize' can be very important.  On the one hand, we have the idea that prioritize means things should be done in sequence.  So, in this resolution we should first focus on economic development and when we have reached some level of development we can focus on environmental protection.  On the other hand, according to some definitions of prioritize (like the Merriam Webster given above), we do not act sequentially, rather we can do both at the same time while placing greater importance on economic development.  This means we pursue both ends but when the two come into conflict such that it forces us to choose, we must defer to economic development since it is the greater priority.  Under the definition of prioritize which suggests a first, do this, then, do this definition, it is important to remember that a threshold or brightline must be provided which establishes the point at which it is time to shift the focus from economic development to environmental protection.


economic development
A document posted on the Cornell University website gives several definitions for the term "economic development".  This snippet is one such definition:

Typically economic development can be described in terms of objectives. These are most commonly described as the creation of jobs and wealth, and the improvement of quality of life. Economic development can also be described as a process that influences growth and restructuring of an economy to enhance the economic well being of a community...The main goal of economic development is improving the economic well being of a community through efforts that entail job creation, job retention, tax base enhancements and quality of life. As there is no single definition for economic development, the re is no single strategy, policy or program for achieving successful economic development. Communities differ in their geographic and political strengths and weaknesses. Each community therefore, will have a unique set of challenges for economic development.

One can take from this definition and others is the idea that that economic development has no universal definition, since the objectives are determined by the community under consideration.  Given this, it does not follow that the objectives of economic development for the United States will carry-over to India or even more developed areas.


over
Merriam Webster - above. In the context of prioritization, a thing should be considered more important than another.


environmental protection
For this definition, I look first to the Merriam Webster dictionary:

environment:
the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded; the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival; the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community

protection:
the act of protecting; the state of being protected

protect:
to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction; defend; to maintain the status or integrity of especially through financial or legal guarantees

A composite definition is provided by the OECD (see here):
Environmental protection refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media. It may consist of:
(a) changes in characteristics of goods and services,
(b) changes in consumption patterns,
(c) changes in production techniques,
(d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities,
(e) recycling, and
(f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.


best interest
Defining "best interests" is not so easy.  We think we know what it means, and we can even go forward with a default understanding of the term but it could prove risky.

The so-called Business Dictionary gives the following definition:

Authority delegated for taking any action or step the delegatee thinks to be the most advantageous to the organization, under the circumstances. This power is conferred usually where it is impossible to anticipate every eventuality, or where the need for rapid decisions or quick response is critical. It is normally given for a short period, or until the time adequate information is available to formulate specific directions or guidelines.

I suppose one could claim many things are in the best interest of India or more properly the people of India.  However, since this explodes ground for the Con (they could literally say, any of hundreds of things should be prioritized in the best interest of the people) the resolution limits the debate to economic development and environmental protection. These are the priorities even if one can reasonably argue that infrastructure or health outcomes or defensive capabilities or population growth should be prioritized.


people of India
While it may seem obvious what "people of India" means, I think it is worth mentioning we need to make a distinction between people of India and other groups such as government of India or businesses of India or poor of India.  Thus we can define the people of India as the citizens of the nation of India. We must also be aware that India is one of the most populated nations on earth with over 1.2 billion people according to the World Bank and the unchecked population growth puts an enormous stain on the nation's economy and environment.


Another BRIC in the Wall

I recall in February of 2009, we debated a resolution which proclaimed that on balance the rise of the BRIC economies has had a positive impact on the United States.  You may know that BRIC was an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China.  India is considered one of several rising economies which either benefits or threatens the U.S. depending on one's point of view so, generally, one may consider India to be a potential economic powerhouse and certainly the most important economic power in southern Asia. As reported by Dev Lewis in 2012:

“India Shining” has been the unofficial slogan for India since the turn of the 21st century. India averaged 8% annual GDP growth in the three years before the recent global financial crisis. Armed with population strength of more than a billion people, India is now the 11th largest economy in the world. According to data, from India’s Planning Commission, rapid economic growth has contributed to a decline in the poverty rate with 37.2% in 2005 to 29.8% in 2010, a drop of 40 million people in the absolute number of the country’s poor. Per capita income doubled during those five years. Internationally, India has also become an important actor. Forming the ‘I’ in the BRICS group of nations, India plays a very important role in the leadership of the emerging markets and developing nations. India boasts a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, pioneering the global IT services industry, and has a global Diaspora that are leaders in various fields. On paper, India’s potential is immense, with approximately 500 million people between the ages of 18-25; its best years seem to be ahead.


Environmental Concerns

Because of the huge strain of population growth and an exploding rate of economic development, as expected, India is experiencing setbacks in every facet of environmental integrity.  Air and water pollution, loss of forests and habitat, and huge issues in solid waste management are elements of the environmental degradation of the Indian subcontinent.  A very good article can be found on Wikipedia here.

In the Jan/Feb 2014 LD topic (see reference above), I presented evidence for a concept known as the environmental Kuznets curve and while not everyone debated the "Kuznets curve" directly, I noted many cases which carried the conceptual idea the degree of environment protection of nations is more or less proportional to the level of economic deveopment.  This is basically expressed as nations which are undergoing development are generally poor at protecting the environment but eventually as these nations achieve a certain level of sustainable development (i.e. they are considered "developed nations") they focus more and more on environmental issues.  Thus the prioritization of environmental concerns lags economic development only for a period of time and then the priorities shift.  These arguments, of course, favor the Pro which makes the Con side all the more difficult to defend.

We shall discuss these ideas more fully in the next articles of this analysis.

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