I remember a debate I had as a young man with a friend of mine who was making his living in the stock market. He advised me to invest in banks and to learn the ways of the trader. I admonished him for being involved in an industry that rewarded companies for firing people, for putting people out of work when they had families to feed, all in the interest of short term profits. I felt, as I still feel, that an economy that grows by reducing jobs was nonsensical, unethical and unsustainable. I wanted no part of it. For all the years in between, endless growth as an economic model has been gospel and any attempt to discuss the obvious fact that we live on a limited world of resources upon which our economy and our very survival is completely dependent was met with looks of disbelief. One never heard any mainstream discussion of this problem, until now.
Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at University of Surrey and Economics Commissioner to the UK Sustainable Development Commission, (click here for bio) is advising the Labour Government, at their request, that we need to redefine what we call prosperity and find a new path there, one that doesn't involve consumerist materialistic growth! You can download his report here, the most downloaded report in the history of the Commission.
Meanwhile the fox still owns the henhouse in the US, the banksters remain firmly in control, steering the debate away from any serious discussion that the entire foundation of the economy is built on sand. Like Zombies in a Romero film, arms raised intoning "must protect the rich, must protect the rich...."
"Is our economy fit for purpose in a low carbon world? Can economic growth deliver us from the threat of catastrophic climate change, or is it the engine thats driving us relentlessly towards it?
Speaking today at a high-level debate in central London to mark the publication of his controversial new book Prosperity without Growth, Tim Jackson argues that building a new economic model fit for a low carbon world is the most urgent task of our times.
The current model isnt working, says Prof Jackson, a top sustainability adviser to the UKs four governments. Instead of delivering widespread prosperity, our economies are undermining wellbeing in the richest nations and failing those in the poorest. The prevailing system has already led us to the brink of economic collapse and if left unchecked it threatens a climate catastrophe.
Prosperity without Growth substantially updates Jacksons groundbreaking report for the Sustainable Development Commission. Launched earlier this year to great acclaim, the report rapidly became the most downloaded document in the Commissions nine year history and in recent weeks has contributed to a burgeoning debate about economic growth and its consequences for people and planet.
As world leaders prepare to meet in Copenhagen to forge a new climate deal, Jacksons analysis provides a salutary warning against complacency. Global carbon emissions have risen 40% since 1990 and will continue to rise inexorably unless action is taken urgently. By the year 2050, the carbon content of each dollar of economic activity will need to be a staggering 130 times lower than it is today, if we are to make room for much-needed development in the poorer nations and remain within a 2oC warming.
By the end of this century, well need an economy in which each and every dollar of economic activity is taking carbon out of the atmosphere, says Jackson. What does such an economy run on? What does it look like? What kind of economic activities take place in such a world? Nobody knows the answer to these questions. But its fanciful to suppose we can achieve such a transformation without seriously examining the dynamics of the growth-based model.
Jackson admits the task is not a trivial one. We are caught in a profound dilemma, he suggests. Economic growth is the default mechanism for achieving social stability. And at the same time it drives the scale of ecological damage. Whats needed now is an urgent commitment to building a different kind of economic system, one which puts people and planet at its heart, Jackson claims. For the advanced economies of the western world, prosperity without growth is no longer a utopian dream. It is a financial and ecological necessity.
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (Earthscan, £12.99) is available from all good bookshops and www.earthscan.co.uk "
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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