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Active Learning and Research
Active Learning and Research
Geographer David Angel explores a variety of policy options that can contribute to clean industrial growth in developing economies.

The greening of industry

Professor David Angel's research
The 1999 movie A Civil Action detailed the struggles of a group of Massachusetts residents trying to prove that local cases of leukemia were caused by industrial pollution. Many of us in industrialized countries have come to know first hand the environmental risks we take in meeting our desire for plentiful consumer goods and a high standard of living. Industrialized countries like the United States have been struggling for years to correct the environmental and health problems that are a legacy of unregulated industrialization. The transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy has traditionally been characterized by
  • Dangerously high levels of water, air and soil pollution
  • High consumption of energy
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Urban overcrowding and impoverishment

What is clean growth?

But must countries now in the process of industrialization pay such a price? Geographer David Angel thinks that carefully implemented policies might make it possible for newly industrializing countries in Asia to achieve "clean growth". Such policies would encourage industry to
  • Control and minimize pollution
  • Reduce the amount of energy needed in the manufacturing process
  • Reduce the amount of environmental resources used

Controlling industrial pollution

In the industrial setting, there are three approaches to controlling environmental pollution and reducing energy and resource consumption. The first two approaches pertain to existing industrial facilities while the third applies to facilities yet to be built:

Existing industrial facilities
  • End-of-pipe remedies. These are methods designed to remove or neutralize manufacturing byproducts so that they can be safely released into the air, water or soil. Note that this strategy does not reduce energy and resource consumption.
  • Retrofitting remedies. Existing industrial facilities can sometimes be modified to use less energy and fewer resources and/or produce less pollution. Often a costly process that may not be completely effective.
New industrial facilities
  • Change in process remedies. Build new facilities that incorporate more advanced technologies designed to use less energy, consume fewer resources, and generate less pollution.
  • Steer development toward industries that are by nature less polluting and energy/resource intensive.

Achieving clean growth

Clearly, these strategies cost money. How can the players in industrial growth be persuaded to pursue a path that favors clean growth? Angel suggests the following:

Organizations setting environmental policy must
  • See their mission as the protection of public health and set environmental quality standards that support that goal
  • Articulate goals and develop ways to evaluate success
  • Encourage the collection and disclosure of information about industrial environmental performance so that industry can be monitored
  • Promote clean production technologies
  • Encourage participation in environmental policy making by a wide range of organizations at the local, regional, and national levels.
Industrial and technical policy
  • Industries must be encouraged to acquire the technical expertise necessary to reduce pollution, energy use and resource consumption.
  • Governments should invest in building "clean growth" technical capability through education and the establishment of institutions responsible for testing materials, inspecting and certifying quality standards, calibrating instruments, etc.
Trade and investment policy
Global and foreign organizations investing in Asian industry must be encouraged to incorporate environmental goals and standards into their requirements for development funding.

Urban policy
Most industrial activity and resulting pollution occurs in urban areas. Local urban governments should be key players in promoting clean growth, especially in the areas of
  • Infrastructure planning (water supply, waste disposal and other public services)
  • Implementing taxation to finance infrastructure
  • Careful land use planning designed to encourage optimal location of industrial and residential areas
Governance and civil society
The structure of government and civic organizations in many Asian countries is still evolving.
  • Community groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must be included in the growth planning process.

For a look at dealing with the environmental effects of industrialization in a U.S. context, read about Clark economist Wayne Gray's work on pollution in the U. S. pulp and paper industry.


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Industrializing countries in Asia
Industrializing countries in Asia (in red). Enlarge.

Welders in an automobile factory in Bangkok, Thailand.
Welders in an automobile factory in Bangkok, Thailand.

Urban poverty on the outskirts of Manila, The Philippines.
Urban poverty on the outskirts of Manila, The Philippines.

Photos courtesy of the International Labour Organization. Photographer: J. Maillard.

© 2014 Clark University·