Sustainable Economy of the Future: How Job Creation and Technologies Can Make it Possible


My previous article (click here to read it) talked about how space economies may emerge as key players in human civilization in the coming decades. Today’s article is part 2 of the series addressing potential global economic systems of the future.



It is no secret that modern-day societal, political, and ecological issues have the potential to rid us of hopes for a bright future on planet Earth. The pandemic, rise of chronic diseases (and cancer), inequality, corruption, and even military operations continue to threaten the wellbeing of today’s world. While humanity has progressed outstandingly since the beginning of the 20th century, we have created new problems by solving old ones. Despite predictions that an environmental collapse in the coming decades will make Earth uninhabitable, I believe that the possibility of a sustainable economy on Earth remains alive. I believe that we can build a “green” global economy in the future by utilising innovative technologies that will work to our and our ecosystems’ advantage.

Technology and sustainability are likely to come hand-in-hand in the future: technologies may both facilitate environmentally-friendly ways of life and create jobs in the future to benefit the economy. For example, innovative technologies are required to produce biodegradable materials that will act as substitutes to materials that are currently harming the environment, such as ecological alternatives to plastic or silicone. These new technologies may produce world-benefiting materials, while creating new jobs in its production, design, marketing, distribution, and management sectors. In fact, according to a report led by Oxford University, “green stimulus policies” may actually create more jobs than traditional policies. (1) The International Labour Organisation (ILO) believes that a shift to cleaner energy production to “combat climate change” can create 18 million jobs, which will yield better economic growth in both the short and long term. (1) This scenario contradicts the popular belief that sustainability comes at a cost of economic growth; it shows how we can have both a ‘green’ economy and a healthy level of growth and employment. The ILO believes that a ‘green’ economy may yield 24 million jobs across the globe by the year 2030. (2) As a result, the environment is benefitted, people have jobs, production is at a healthy level, and the economy has potential for growth. A win-win scenario.

Energy and land conservation may also be a crucial step towards achieving a sustainable economy. It is reasonable to assume that energy conservation will decrease standards of living and decrease production - thus lowering employment and economic growth - but evidence shows that the opposite may actually be true. By decreasing emissions, we can actually create new jobs: the EU believes that by reducing CO2 emissions by 60%, they will create jobs in the “electric vehicles,” “public transport,” and “electrified railway” sectors. (3) Conservation does not have to harm the economy. While from a theoretical standpoint, using less energy and less land results in less production, contradicting economic growth, it is still possible to combine conservation with economic prosperity. According to The Century Foundation, the “National Park Service alone employs 20,000 paid workers; if its 315,000 annual volunteers were also paid green jobs, it would employ as many green workers as there are teachers and instructors nationwide.” (6) The same applies to environmental restrictions. A restriction on carbon emissions may harm the economy by decreasing production, but it may also counteract this decline by creating new jobs. For example, a restriction on the meat and dairy industry may mean that people begin to rely more on local producers, such as independent farmers, farmers’ markets, and other small-scale suppliers. As the demand for these types of products increases, so will the available jobs in this sector. As a result, both the environment and the people are benefitted.

We can achieve a sustainable economy without sacrificing employment by embracing technologies. While new technologies are known to cause displacement among workers, the World Economic Forum believes that technology can actually create more jobs than those that are being lost due to displacement and increase overall employment. Automation may replace approximately 85 million jobs by 2025, but “a tech-driven economy” can generate 97 million new jobs. (4) Ideally, I believe technology and sustainability should be combined to yield fruitful outcomes for the environment, the climate, the job sector, and overall employment, and, therefore, life quality. An example of this idea can be the (previously mentioned) biodegradable materials industry; the production of plastic or silicone alternatives using natural sources that biodegrade requires both technological advancements and human reasoning, allowing both sides to prosper. Technologies are made to benefit us, so future innovations should be catered towards improving the environment as well as allowing for human - rather than solely automated - labor.

Combining labor-intensive work with sustainability is another way that we can achieve this type of “green” economy. A great example is urban agriculture - the practice of growing crops using limited space in an urban setting, often using vertical “greenhouses.” Urban agriculture allows for energy conservation (because transportation of goods will be reduced since they grow in an urban setting), and human labor (supporting employment). (5) As a result, agricultural production is increased, stimulating economic growth, the environment is benefitted, and people have work.

In conclusion, one possible way that our global economy can unfold in the future is by becoming a sustainable economy on earth. It is possible to achieve this type of “green” economy by combining technology with sustainability and job creation.

There is indeed a commonly held belief that true economic growth occurs as a result of industrialisation, mass commercial production, and resource exploitation. After all, this is how the western world was built. But just because something defined our past does not mean that it should define our future. We can redefine industrialisation. We can make it more sustainable. We can redefine mass production. We can redefine economic growth.


Now let’s hear your voice! What do you think the economy will be like in the future?

Let’s get the conversation started in the comments!






Sources:

  1. Will Covid -19 Fiscal Recovery ... - University of Oxford. https://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/publications/wpapers/workingpaper20-02.pdf.

  2. Written by Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist. “These Are the Sectors Where Green Jobs Are Growing in Demand.” World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/09/sectors-where-green-jobs-are-growing-in-demand/.

  3. “CO2 Emissions from Cars: Facts and Figures (Infographics): News: European Parliament.” CO2 Emissions from Cars: Facts and Figures (Infographics) | News | European Parliament, 18 Apr. 2019, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190313STO31218/co2-emissions-from-cars-facts-and-figures-infographics.

  4. Kelly, Jack. “U.S. Lost over 60 Million Jobs-Now Robots, Tech and Artificial Intelligence Will Take Millions More.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Dec. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2020/10/27/us-lost-over-60-million-jobs-now-robots-tech-and-artificial-intelligence-will-take-millions-more/?sh=3aca74221a52.

  5. “Future Jobs: 6 Green Careers Set to Grow in the next Decade.” Global Citizen, https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/future-jobs-green-careers-for-young-people-gen-z/.

  6. Amanda Novello and Greg Carlock, et al. “Redefining Green Jobs for a Sustainable Economy.” The Century Foundation, 6 Jan. 2020, https://tcf.org/content/report/redefining-green-jobs-sustainable-economy/.



About the author:

I am a 19-year old girl living on the sunny island of Cyprus! I am currently on a gap year and work in digital marketing. I love everything that has to do with the social sciences and the environment; I organize community clean ups each week and will be studying economics and/or psychology in college!




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