It’s hard to know what the overall effect has been, but I can think of several possible positive effects on the environment. When money is scarce, people are more interested in buying secondhand goods, which saves them from going to landfills, and often consume less in general. People may drive less, and become more interested in alternative forms of energy, which tend to be cheaper in the long run despite their higher up-front cost. People dine in restaurants less frequently, tending to stay at home, which prevents food waste and energy usage. All in all, the recession probably hasn’t been a bad thing for the environment.
Recession has helped the environment by constraining disposible income that can be spent on consumer goods. As consumer spending has a large carbon footprint, from the production, supply, use, and disposal of products and services, lowering consumption will directly and indirectly lower pollution emissions. As a basic example, expensive gas prices encourage people to carpool, use mass transmit, and generally avoid driving when unncessary.
Recession has hurt the environment in that conservative spenders believe federal spending must be cut, and their principal target is funding for the regulation of industries like coal and oil. They argue that not only can we not afford to enforce safety regulations, but also that stringent safety standards are expensive for companies to implement and that they are therefore hindering businesses’ growth.
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