There has long been a tug of war between the continual search for economic growth – endless, exponential and necessary – and the availability of resources and markets such growth requires. But with the quest for energy leading to wars, price fluctuations, supply shortages and environmental disasters, and supply-side economics leading to prosperity for some and poverty for most, the argument seems to have at last swung in favour of planet Earth – and away from the one dominant species living on it.
For economists and policy makers, the challenge seems to be how to ensure prosperous, dynamic economies without the pressing need for higher GDP and greater consumption – not least as the natural resources on which growth has been built are rapidly receding. It’s a challenge that Tim Jackson, professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of the Research group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment, has tackled head on in Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet.
Focusing primarily on developed nations, Jackson, who is also a senior adviser to the British government, sets forth an argument that greater consumption can no longer be the goal of post-industrial economies, especially as the economy is set to reach 9 billion by 2030. “The idea of a non-growing economy may be an anathema to an economist,” he argues, “but the idea of a continually growing economy is an anathema to an ecologist.”
Well presented, clearly written and highly readable, this might just be the manifesto for the rest of this century.
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet: Tim Jackson (Earthscan), 2010