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March 29, 2005


Good news, Washington's economy is getting stronger, at least as it's measured by GDP. From 2002 to 2003 the state's economy expanded by a rousing 5.1 percent. But is that really an accurate way to evaluate the health of the economy?

Unfortunately, in tandem with economic growth, reported releases of toxic chemicals from major industries also increased by 3 percent (an additional 600,000 pounds of toxics distributed around the state's land, air, and water). The Olympian reports

There's a lesson here, I think. Despite its omnipresence, GDP is a lousy way to measure our society, and even our economy. To quote the inimitable Alan Durning:

GDP doesn't track how people are, but only how much they spend. GDP fails to distinguish between losses and gains, because it only adds and doesn't subtract. Gutting ecosystems for commodities--and leaving fisheries depleted, forests cleared, or rivers dammed--shows up as a plus in the accounts. So do expensive misfortunes: whether money is spent on vacations or hospital stays, playground equipment or car wrecks, births or funerals, it's all the same in the GDP ledger.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


Actually GDP is a good measure of the economy.

Also, you might want to do a little more research into the overall trend of toxic releases into the environment in Washington. Start with the chart on page 8 of the 1996 report - http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/98402.pdf -

This show that releases were about 45 million pounds in 1989... this declined to abot 25 million in 1996. In 1998 standards were changed to track pollutants from more industries...see the chart on page 9 of the 2002 report. - http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0404020.pdf
Even with more stringent measurement the totals are now around 20 million tons.

Using the same measurements releases declined from 45 million in 1989 to under 15 million by 2002.

Since 1989 huge growth in Washington economy and HUGE decline in toxic releases.

Posted by: Joe Deely | Apr 7, 2005 10:49:46 PM