Call for a New Paradigm


Our planet has a carrying capacity and growth beyond that point will no longer benefit but harm society.  This point introduces a discussion on environmental economics suggesting not just slow growth but limits to growth, explicitly stating that the global economy should be constrained (WorldWatchp.9). Steady state economist, Herman Daly said, “It would be very difficult to define sufficiency and build the concept into economic theory and practice.  But I think it will prove far more difficult to continue to operate (as if) there is no such thing as enough” (as cited in Princen, 2005, p.11).  That sentiment written 40 years ago is germane to effective policy today.  We can no longer afford to consider our economy without equal consideration to our environment.  All environmental issues are social and economics is how society used its resources.  Concepts of sustainable development are not new, just logical.

It is a well-documented fact that global poverty has risen with global economic output. As wealth has grown more than 18 fold in the past century, poverty has also grown. 40% of the world’s population now lives with chronic hunger without adequate sanitation.  The economic growth surge in China, and India, has reduced global income inequality producing a rising middle class.  This was at the cost of the environment. China’s carbon dioxide emissions have surpassed those of the United States. “China’s course of development could not spread to Africa, South Asia, and other impoverished regions without catastrophic environmental ramifications” (WorldWatch, p.8).  And some of these have already occurred as a result of the Shenzhen model disbursement.  These monoeconomic one-size-fits-all policies (see Appendix for more information) may be globally damaging in irreparable ways.  We are desperate for contextualized policy that addresses the needs of a specific region balanced against the needs of a globalized world—and new concepts are emerging.

The World Bank has devised a comprehensive system of processes to transform urban centers in developing nations into low-carbon or green zones.  The initiative, “Eco2 Cities: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities,” is part of its Urban and Local Government Strategy.  The literature presents a strategic plan with policy proposals to address a very real economic problem: the supply of resources will not meet our demand in the near future.  If developing countries urbanize in the way that our developed cities have, the ecological footprint of the earth will multiply by four—that is the demand of four new earths (Suzuki, p.228).  ‘Best practices’ cited by the WB demonstrate a wide range of policies that any municipality may adapt as their own.  But the intention of this research aspires to nothing less than a paradigm shift, using SEZs in LDCs as pilot programs.

“Designed, developed, and operated in a low-carbon and sustainable way.

Pilot areas for Low-Carbon Economic Development providing the ability for:

  • Focused implementation and
  • Measurable impact
  • Respond to increasing market demand for low-carbon products from MNCs and consumers
  • Play as a catalyst for “Low-Carbon Development Paradigm” and spread to nation-wide initiatives
  • Leverage the proven concept of SEZs and build on low-carbon growth initiatives in many countries
  • Integrate of sustainable urban services systems such as renewable energy supply, waste management etc. “ (Suzuki, p.20)

 IFIs may effect change by funding development programs with contingencies, and government may establish taxes and enforce laws discouraging environmental bads or create policy and subsidies to promote environmental goods, but the implementation of environmentally conscious industrial practice comes from innovation in the private sector.  The developed world possesses the knowledge base for the necessary research and the entrepreneurial savvy to bring new methods to the market.  For the benefit of our planet and conserving its resources, it is commonly believed to be the responsibility of the developed world to share knowledge with the LDCs—particularly when converting public bads to public goods.

The logistics of knowledge exchange are talking points in development discussions between the US and China in Shenzhen, and the UK and China in the redesign of Jilin City.  The Jilin City project will be explored in further detail later, but the relevant point here is that the Chinese and English governments have been establishing the necessary diplomatic foundation for the business of green technology to develop in one of China’s oldest industrialized areas. This process is taking years.  One entanglement is the need for foreign investors to establish a new market that requires the transfer of intellectual property to SOEs who have a history of cutting corners and operating outside of contractual agreements.  A colonial legacy and the more recent “era of humiliation” have also contributed to mutual misgivings.

A similar legacy exists in India however it doesn’t seem to be a direct barrier to their Green SEZs.  The guidelines demonstrate that the knowledge exists but there are obstacles to implementation.  Two years ago, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama discussed the idea of establishing a “Knowledge Initiative” as a way of linking increased education to research in science and technology.  According to Robert Hormats, Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs at the East-West Center in Washington, DC, the dialogue hasn’t progressed and formal linkages have not been established.  He finds the absence of Indian entrepreneurialism to be problematic.  “So I think that education is part of it, but what’s even more important is the entrepreneurialism that goes on, the fact that these people who are educated here in many cases stay here and work for American companies. That is where a lot of the innovation is taking place” (Hormats, 2011).

We have a need for incubators of innovation and zones for new markets.  The colloquialism, “If you build it, he will come” (Field of Dreams) comes to mind.  So development planning continues to transform one of the oldest cities in China into the latest and greatest modern marvel.  Why Jilin City and not Shenzhen?  A World Bank chart details the decision process that targets a desired balance of isolation and manageable global markets–in Jilin the market is petrochemical–that may be converted into linkages for clean tech industry (Chatham House, p.8).  The infrastructure in Shenzhen is comparatively new so the region is much better suited for adaptations.  The change that would most benefit Shenzhen is consistent enforcement of current policies and a specified punitive system for offending companies.  Remarkably, such a system does not exist.

An enforced system of corporate accountability is absent in most SEZs rendering municipalities powerless over polluting MNCs.  Meanwhile, central governments primarily concern themselves with rising GDP to insure the happiness of their foreign investors.  This problem of accountability  is accounted for in the project planned for Jilin City as it outlines a system of governance that empowers regional leadership.  A short-term plan is to establish a new government administration for energy saving and emissions reduction.  It proposes a new specialist institution and a new government fund for strategic low carbon investments (Chatham House, p.3).