From Stone Age to Green Age: Key Issues and Options
Jebamalai Vinanchiarachi


Jebamalai Vinanchiarachi

Director, Cardinal Cleemis School of Management Studies, Thiruvananthapuram

Former Principal Adviser to the Director General of UNIDO, Vienna, Ausria

The first and second industrial revolutions ignited the transformation from Stone age to Carbon age, using manufacturing as a dynamic force to achieve rapid economic transformation. The new industrial revolution triggers a shift towards green age.  Emerging ideas on the new industrial revolution point to the new era of green age. 


Technological marvels make deep in-roads into the production process and consumption patterns, and on the facets of the new industrial revolution. Jeremy Rifkin, leading opinion maker on the new industrial revolution, talks about five pillars of the in his book The Third Industrial Revolution:  Shifting to renewable energy; buildings as power plants; deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies; using internet technology to transform the power grid; and transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug in and fuel cell vehicles.  These five pillars, making up an indivisible technological platform, constitute an emergent system creating a new economic paradigm that can transform the world in the envisaged green era.


Peter Marsh, the author of the book titled “The new industrial revolution”, believes that there will be a greater dispersion of manufacturing around the world, with numerous cross-border networked production and marketing, smaller-scale production lines participating in global value chain, more customization of products attuned to the  tastes of particular consumers, more niche firms, and a greater emphasis on providing consulting and follow-on after-sale services to customers along with products.


Yet another emerging idea on the new industrial revolution relates to open innovation and value creation network using the social media as an effective means of promoting collaborative enterprise. All these developments have a pragmatic accent on greening industrial activities, and the world today is on the brink of a green industrial revolution. It is imperative to ensure that this leap is more inclusive than the past pattern of development.  Today’s developed countries became fat on carbon diet.  The late-comers in the sphere of industrialization cannot afford to become fat on carbon diet as the priority accent today is on shifting to the green age. The trajectory of becoming affluent and developed through industrialization with profound impact on environment is history.  Remaining poor to be clean is not the panacea either. It is obvious that the industrially less developed countries cannot take the past path of the developed countries in their endeavour to climb the ladder of development and become prosperous.  As the carbon diet is on the option to grow fast, a balanced diet of energy and raw materials that proportionately decouples carbon from growth is increasingly being sought. To drive the late-comers in the sphere of industrialization towards the adoption of green technology, a mode that provides flexibility within the pace and domain of their affordability must be formulated. This is indeed the key issue.


Shades of green

It may be technically and financially possible for developed countries to use the technological marvels to move quickly from light green to dark green and thereby contribute to their own perceptions of ensuring green justice which entails a pattern of development that reduces pollution or waste, and efficiently allocates and uses energy, water and other natural resources which are limited.  As long as enhanced economic efficiency and ecological compliance ensure social inclusion, green justice will prevail.


The real issue relates to the fact that greening the economy through enhanced economic efficiency and ecological compliance may not necessarily ensure social inclusion. Although there exists an increasing body of literature on the relationship between environmental sustainability and employment creation and income generation, there is no well-accepted and consistent definition of shades of green which clearly draws the boundaries between ecological compliance and poverty reduction.  Hence, the need to rethink on different shades of green and the definition of green justice in accordance with different levels of development and degrees of industrialization.


The contribution of developing countries in general and least developed countries in particular to climate change is meagre to the extent of being negligible.  Expecting them to decouple carbon from growth in line with the benchmarked prescriptions and proscriptions will be detrimental particularly when the social dividends in terms of income and employment creation for the poor are at stake.  Hence, the proposal of a balanced diet of energy in the wake of shades of green to achieve green justice is boarded within the green perimeter of affordability and development level.  Opting for different shades of green according to countries’ level of development and degree of industrialization could effectively address the formidable challenge of reaping economic, environmental and social dividends.  This provides a tailor-made tangible approach that is specifically configured within the capabilities of a country which will be well received as the outcomes will be forthcoming.


Least polluters may opt for light green to start with and gradually pass through different shades of green and thereby contribute to green justice. Expecting the late-comers in the sphere of industrialization to bypass different shades of green and leapfrog at the cost of sacrificing social inclusion is tantamount to green injustice. This does not necessarily mean that the late-comers should pollute and grow under the pretext that developed countries’ prosperity stemmed from the process of moving from clean to dirt and that once developed they can move from dirt to clean by virtue of their access to sophisticated green technologies.  Rather, it calls for industrially less developed countries’ active participation in greening their economies by making enhanced economic efficiency and ecological compliance work for the poor and thereby make the changing pattern of development ensure social inclusion.


Signals of green justice

A number of Asian countries are fast-moving in this direction, and they are demonstrating their capability to ride the green wave which fosters fast-growing, job-creating green industries. This sends a strong signal to least developed countries in other parts of the world to invest in green technologies for sustainable development. As a number of nations all over the world are struggling to catch up today, the twenty-first century provides them with an opportunity to industrialize differently. Pursuing a particular shade of green, according to countries’ affordability and access to modern technology and devices, befitting country-specific context, is the answer.  To harvest the full impact, green technology should be exhibited with the flexible shades of green to be efficiently acceptable rather than a rigid fully green, with sporadic acceptance by countries with other priorities agenda.  Making science and technology work for the poor  in the spheres of exploiting renewable sources of energy, enhancing efficient use of energy, reducing the material intensity of production, and implementing clean development mechanisms, and  mitigation and adaptation programmes will add practical meaning to green justice. 


Our earnest endeavour is to make scientific and technological marvels pertinent to different shades of green - light green, green, and dark green -  work for the poor and their effective empowerment in green development and green jobs.  


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