Is economic growth that great? Ask the Planet.

We take something beautiful that isn’t even ours and trash it. We steal the Earth’s resources that are meant to provide for not just us but all generations. We poison the Earth without a thought for our children and grandchildren.

Why modern economics is the oldest – and most inappropriate – thing I have in my house

I’m reading about economics. I love reading popular books about economics,  they  are full of ideas. I’m reading Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by  Kate Raworth.

 

 

Below is Kate’s view of how we should do economics. In the first column of the diagram are some of the thinking we need to create the caring and sustainable economies we so desperately need for today’s world:

Source: Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Random.

 

What’s wrong with today’s economics? Firstly, it’s not “today’s” economics. We live in the economics of previous centuries, and that’s the problem. To illustrate what’s wrong with this I found a pair of quaint, old fashioned scales:

I took a grain of sand (enlarged for visibility): 

 

.    <- grain of sand

 

and placed this on one side of the scales. This represents the five families that, in a 2014  Oxfam report, were said to own as much as the 19 million least well-off people in the UK (roughly 20% of us). And the massive pile of sand on the right represents the 19 million whose combined wealth matches the five richest families. 

I carefully arranged all of this so that the two sides balanced, something no one in power has managed to do so far.

 

 

So that’s the first problem with today’s economics. You can call it unfair wealth distribution, social injustice, a broken system – call it what you will.

The world is divided into those who believe the current system will eventually fix this and those who don’t (plus those who bury their head in the sand dune, above). 

The second problem is this:

 

source: earthuntouched.com

 

We take something beautiful that isn’t even ours and trash it. We steal the Earth’s resources that are meant to provide for not just us but all generations. We poison the Earth without a thought for our children and grandchildren. 

All of the above is a direct result of what we call “economics” and the license it gives us to destroy.

What’s this got to do with eco-positivity? As eco-consumers we try to minimise our contribution to all this waste and degradation. Making conscious choices about what we spend our money on. Challenging the status quo that says it has to be this way. Taking care which materials we buy and how we dispose of them. 

But it’s also Zen power, using our consciousness to change things that don’t work. Kate Raworth and others are showing us we urgently need to rethink economics for today’s world. 

And it’s Zen people-power, people getting together to accelerate change. Never think that what you do doesn’t make a diffference.

It’s all about GDP. Most people haven’t studied economics but it affects all of our lives. Even if you live alone on a small island economics affects your life. But most of us wouldn’t realise there was a way to “change economics”. 

Governments like to see a rising GDP. A rising GDP means more things are being made, more is being sold, more money is changing hands – and the government can raise more taxes. But if a higher GDP means taking more from the Earth than it can give us, we have to question what we are doing, and a number of people are challenging GDP as the ultimate goal.  

Do less developed countries need growth? Quite possibly yes, because growth is what takes a country from extreme poverty to the point where people can be fed and clothed. But even where economic growth is socially desirable it should be done in ways that are the least destructive to the planet. This can be achieved if the developed world and the developing world work together to share the burden.

2 thoughts on “Is economic growth that great? Ask the Planet.

  1. The read was interesting for sure. My knowledge of economics and formal education is limited but I understand the basic idea. Every person needs to become involved in whatever capacity they deal with the world. I would like to continue reading, learning and understanding more in this vein. Thanks

    1. Thanks Belinda. There are many strands of opinion in economic thinking but there is always a fear of letting go of growth as a target. A free market economy is said to be the most efficient, but maybe you can have less efficiency but still a better economic system.

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