The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

It's Time to Stop Measuring Economic Success by GDP Growth

Haley Mullins

Posted on June 12, 2021 15:12

3 users

Whether we want to admit it or not, our relentless devotion to economic growth is in direct conflict with environmental protection and sustainability.

"The International Monetary Fund is now estimating our economy will grow at a rate of more than 6% this year," President Biden recently said. "That will be the fastest pace of economic growth in this country in nearly four decades. America is moving, moving forward."

For most, President Biden's reassurance that the economy is on the up-and-up instills a sense of hope and relief after the economy shrank 2.5% in 2020 due to the pandemic. Like President Biden, most politicians insist that the cure-all for America's ailments is economic growth. While I would like to believe their intentions are good, these leaders fail to recognize the devastating downsides of growth: depleted natural resources, increased waste production and CO2 emissions, biodiversity loss, and much more.

For those who recognize the intimate relationship between economic growth and ecological demise, however, the promise of such rapid growth continues the terrifying trend towards climate disaster. These people call themselves "steady staters."

Steady staters believe that the fixation on endless economic growth on a planet with finite resources is a recipe for disaster, and that in order to combat climate change and develop a sustainable society, we need to replace our growth-mindset with a commitment to economic stability. Steady staters promote what's called a steady state economy, an economy that is stable (or mildly fluctuating) in size. In order for this model to be sustainable, the economy must not exceed ecological limits. Stabilizing population and per capita consumption, therefore, is essential.

In 2018, 90 climate scientists from 40 countries determined that if we don't take drastic and collective action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, we will be past the point of no return, irreversibly damaging the Earth.

It has been 3 years since this conclusion, and the only thing that has significantly reduced annual emissions since then has been the Covid-19 pandemic that has (thus far) resulted in over 3.7 million deaths worldwide. Now, with vaccine distributions, many regions are trying to resume life as we once knew it. We're quickly falling back into our production and consumption patterns, and political leaders are eagerly stimulating the economy to create growth.

The counterargument to adopting the steady state economy and continuing our quest for growth is that technological advancement and innovation will compensate for the downsides of growth. 

Are we really so confident in our technological capabilities that we are willing to continue growth with so little time left to spare? Are our creature comforts, production and consumption habits, and infatuation with novelty worth sacrificing the only planet we know can sustain human life?

Relying on technology and innovation to save us now is a Hail Mary pass with seconds on the clock. Technology might buy us some time, but it's only going to prolong the inevitable. The fact is, endless growth isn’t feasible on a planet with limited resources. It's time to face this fact and petition for the transition to a steady state economy.

Haley Mullins

Posted on June 12, 2021 15:12

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Civil Beat

As educators, researchers, and practitioners in sustainability, our jobs are to examine current practices and explore new,...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest