Green economics? Get off of growth already!
I’m not one for proverbs as they tend to be overly reductive and are often used to win arguments simply on the strength of their own renown. But as far as aphorisms go, ‘wealth is wasted on the rich’ is a pretty good one.
Most people understand trite sayings like ‘the best things in life are free’, yet the model of happiness through material acquisition has resoundingly triumphed over other, non consumption-based ideologies. Never mind that it’s inherently unsustainable and that one group or individual’s gain is too often predicated on another’s loss.
But large cracks in the growth based consumption model have been highlighted by the climate crisis and global economic downturn. Other voices are being raised. Recent inroads in alternative, non-growth based economic models that consider environmental issues and sustainability have been made by Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom and other forward thinking economists such as Pavan Sukhdev, Noreena Hertz and the New Economics Foundation.
Don’t get me wrong – my knowledge of economics is far from comprehensive and I’m not denying the potential benefits of economic growth in some regions of the world, but I am encouraging you all to check out the work being done by the above economists as well as a recent piece in the Guardian by Christopher Doll entitled ‘Beyond green growth: why we need a world without economic growth’.
So, beyond concepts of green growth or sustainable growth there is also that of ‘no growth’. The latter is distinguished by the fact that it does not equate ‘development’ with economic expansion. The so-called steady state economy would look very different than our current system. We may share jobs, which would mean less income but, if we must still believe that time is money, increasing our time capital would afford us the luxury of doing the things that money can’t, or would no longer be needed to, buy.
I also encourage everyone to watch The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard for a great illustration of the flaws in our consumption-based economic system.
by Graham Land