A ten day debate organised by The Economist has been won by the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Conservation Programmes Director, Jonathan Baillie, with 77% agreeing that growth is not good for biodiversity.
Professor Baillie took part in the online debate, arguing against the motion defended by Bjorn Lomborg, Adjunct professor, Copenhagen Business School and Director, Copenhagen Consensus Center.
In his opening remarks Professor Baillie said:"At first sight there appears to be a mismatch. If GDP is increasing and is supposedly bad for biodiversity, why in America are many vertebrate species populations recovering, many forests coming back and many pollutants on the decline? Some of America's environmental conditions can be explained by innovation leading to greater efficiency, such as fuel efficiency in cars or more efficient agricultural production. But the majority of the negative impact has simply been exported. The industries that produce the most pollutants have been outsourced to emerging nations that have fewer regulations, in terms of both the environment and labour conditions. Therefore the environmental impact of increased consumption is largely felt beyond the borders of wealthy nations.
"It is middle- and lower-income nations that experience the majority of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. This can be seen in the WWF Living Planet Report 2012, where species population trends are increasing by 7% in high-income countries and declining in middle- and low-income countries by 31% and 60% respectively."