Economic Development and Global Warming

When it comes to economic development and prosperity, global warming is the elephant in the room. Not recognizing and dealing with a warming planet in a timely manner may be the omission that denies all humans the opportunity to prosper.

Most definitions of prosperity reference community wealth and personal well-being, which includes quality of life factors such as safety, health, housing, education and recreation. If global warming causes an increase in sea level rise, extreme weather events, disruptions in food supply, economic instability, negative health impacts and air pollution, then prosperity, quality of life and personal well-being are all in jeopardy.

Currently, there is little or no agreement on almost any aspect of global warming, including causes, solutions and impacts.

In Magnetic Communities, I spend a good bit of time describing and illustrating how local economies prosper by attracting and retaining money. When a colleague asked me if Magnetic Community strategies negatively or positively impact global warming, I took a second look at the book and was pleasantly surprised to discover that many Magnetic Community strategies actually help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming. In other words, Magnetic Community strategies that attract and retain money not only create prosperity but in many cases also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For Example:

  • When communities recruit and retain service and technology-based businesses that sell services and software to customers outside the local economy, new money is attracted to the community and greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing and shipping are minimized.
  • When local businesses and governments hire residents and non-residents willing to relocate, the local economy retains and circulates worker income, multiplying the local economic impact and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting.
  • When residents, local businesses and governments purchase materials, goods and services locally, they help retain and circulate money, multiplying the economic benefit of their spending while limiting greenhouse gas emissions associated with shipping.
  • When communities fill gaps in the availability of local materials, products and services, residents, businesses and governments are able to find what they need locally, retaining money in the local economy and decreasing both travel distances and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • When local businesses, residents and governments reduce energy payments to providers outside the community, money is retained, circulated and available for additional spending. If spent locally, the money multiplies in value and greenhouse gas emissions are minimized.
  • When tourists stay in one place longer, they spend more, increasing economic benefits, and travel less, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • When local businesses sell local products and services to tourists, new money is attracted to the local economy with little or no impact on greenhouse gas emissions. This is in contrast to the impact local businesses selling imported goods have on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • When residents work locally, paychecks, for the most part, remain in the community. Spending increases and money circulates in the local economy, multiplying the economic value above and beyond the initial expenditure. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions are mitigated by shorter commutes and by the potential that employees walk, cycle, use electric vehicles and take public transportation to work.
  • When residents and resident-retirees shop locally, money is retained and circulated in the local economy. Spending increases and the economic value of purchases are multiplied above the original expenditure. Shopping locally reduces both travel distances and greenhouse gas emissions.

Even though I dislike the phrase, “It’s a win-win.” If a community can prosper and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time, it truly is a win-win!