Thursday, 11 February 2010
Defining real progess
Ever wondered why there is still so much inequality, unhappiness, crime, environmental degradation, poor health, unemployment, poverty...The economy has grown and that is supposed to mean that we are progressing - but are we? And what's the alternative? Wouldn't we be better off using our health and wellbeing as the measure of progress? This new book by Prof Tim Jackson - Prosperity Without Growth - argues that its time to rethink economic growth...something I've written about a lot (see here and here for instance). Greens have been arguing this case since their foundation.
The earthscan website has some useful links and many quotes of praise from a wide range of political and other commentators for the book, which it describes as below,
Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion?*
In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations.No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it.
More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity - and there is no evidence to suggest that we can - we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth.
Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish - within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times.
The growth debate
The book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. Since the report was published in March 2009, President Sarkozy has asked world leaders to join a revolution in the measurement of economic progress, Sir Nicholas Stern has warned 'at some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth', and John Prescott has called the current economic growth model 'immoral'.