In this six-part special report ecoRI News examines the local relationship between economic and environmental health. Environmental protections are often seen as antithetical to economic progress. We wanted to test this assumption, so we pose the question: “What is the economic value of a healthy environment, and what are the economic, environmental and societal costs of not doing enough to prepare southern New England for the impacts of a changing climate?"


There are more than 200,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States. Last year, this heavily subsidized industry generated $160 billion in revenue. (istock)

There are more than 200,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States. Last year, this heavily subsidized industry generated $160 billion in revenue. (istock)

Better investment in and support of southern New England’s local food system would mean healthier economy, environment and people.

Consumers, thanks to the local food movement, are increasingly reflecting on the origin, environmental impacts and health consequences of what they eat and drink. There also are growing concerns about pollution, deforestation, greenhouse-gas emissions, and energy and water demands associated with industrial food and beverage manufacturing. About 90 percent of the food consumed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, however, comes from outside New England, and most food-related jobs in the region are tied to the lower-paying service industry.


Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, R.I., was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but of the 29 waterfront properties damaged, only five were built to better withstand climate change. (istock)

Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, R.I., was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but of the 29 waterfront properties damaged, only five were built to better withstand climate change. (istock)

Environmental regulations can protect the economy and human health. It's also possible to grow smart and be profitable.

A powerful cabal of politicians and special interests loudly argues that environmental regulations are too expensive and hinder the economy. Healthy ecosystems, and the biodiversity that thrives within them, however, protect water, soil and air quality, ensure food security and provide protection from storms. The pressures of economic growth have stressed the health of vital ecosystems and cost taxpayers plenty, in the form of Superfund cleanups, flood damage, and health-care costs associated with lead poisoning and rising asthma rates.


 
(Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

(Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

Is southern New England adequately prepared to deal with rising waters and the power of shifting sands? Not really.

Picked Pockets: Taxpayers Pay Heavy Price for Endless Growth

 (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

 (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Adequately addressing climate reality and investing in local food would support southern New England's economy and save tax dollars.

Local Businesses Appreciate Economic Benefit of Environmental Protections

 (David Smith/ecoRI News)

 (David Smith/ecoRI News)

Much of southern New England's economy relies on wise climate policies and adaptations, clean water, protected space and biodiversity.

Renewable Energy has Potential to Create Wave of New Jobs

(Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

(Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Policies that support the renewable-energy sector would help curb out-of-region reliance on fossil fuels and strengthen southern New England's economy.