Quarterly Essay - Man-Made World: Choosing Between Progress and Planet
Is the world split between those who want to save the planet and those who want to save themselves? In Quarterly Essay 44, Andrew Charlton exposes the rift that will shape our future: progress versus planet, rich versus poor. To launch the essay, Charlton is joined in conversation by The Age Environment editor Adam Morton.
Who, then, will save us? Charlton shows there are two leading candidates: economists and environmentalists. Each says they know what is best for our grandchildren. Yet environmentalists see economists as merchants of greed with a blind faith in markets. And economists see environmentalism as an indulgence for the middle class of richer nations; those who enjoy the lifestyle afforded by economic growth, but take its source for granted.
In Australia, this battle has plunged our politics into one of its most tumultuous periods. It has split the business community, driven a wedge between the left and right of the Liberal Party, divided Labor’s working class from its progressive supporters, propelled the rise of the Greens and stirred rural protest.
Across the globe, economists and environmentalists are locked in a struggle over who has the right response to climate change, population and food security issues. In this groundbreaking essay, Charlton argues that our descendants will only thank us if we find a way to preserve both the natural world and human progress.
Andrew Charlton was senior economic adviser to the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2010.
Adam Morton is the Environment editor at The Age.