The world's mad obsession with unlimited growth

By | | comments |

Our manic obsession with never-ending economic growth is driving our planet to ruin, writes Dr Adnan Al-Daini.

COUNTRIES' ECONOMIES ARE DRIVEN by an obsession — continuous growth in the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The absurdity of this becomes clear with a little bit of thought. Never-ending growth that relies on extracting resources from a finite planet is, of course, a mathematical impossibility, but well before we reach that point, this obsession will render our planet uninhabitable.

If our concern is the well-being of our citizens, is GDP the appropriate indicator of that?
GDP is defined as

"... the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time."

This implies that a cleaning-up operation after an environmental disaster for example gives a boost to GDP.

Dan O'Neill of the Centre for the Advancement of Steady State Economics (CASSE) makes the point that many bad things – such as family breakdown, wars, and environmental disaster – contribute to GDP, but good things, where no money is exchanged, do not — such as volunteering.

Research shows that while in developing countries there is a strong correlation between GDP per capita and people's well-being, in developed countries – such as in Western Europe and the United States – such a correlation no longer applies. For example, in the U.S. and UK, GDP per capita has tripled since 1945, but perception of happiness amongst the population has since flat-lined.

In a previous article on the Huffington Post, I attempted to explain the destructiveness and stupidity of our economic growth obsession:

'If we insist that western economies must continue to grow year after year for poor people even to have the basics for life, and since we know that only little of the wealth created trickles down, then before too long we will end up devouring the whole planet. Of course, well before we reach that point, we will have degraded our environment to the point where life becomes unsustainable for all of us, rich and poor, and certainly for future generations.'So where do we go from here?

Steady-State Economics present us with an alternative to continuous growth economics.

Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill in their book Enough is Enough define a steady-state economy thus:

'At its simplest, a steady-state economy is an economy that aims to maintain a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population. It's an economy in which material and energy use are kept within ecological limits, and in which the goal of increasing GDP is replaced by the goal of improving quality of life .... It prioritizes well-being above consumption, and long-term health above short-term gains .... It promises that the transformation of the economic system from growth to stability, from more to enough, would allow us to solve critical environmental problems while maintaining (or even improving) quality of life.'

This is certainly a vision worth striving for. Frankly, there is no alternative because the existing growth fetish is driving humanity to despair, polluting our environment, and benefiting a very small segment of society world-wide.

Dietz and O'Neill suggest that a business model needs to go beyond generating revenue and earning profit. Businesses need to work

'... within a framework that respects ecological limits and promotes human well-being.'

They suggest the following:

'Three ways to align business practices with the goals of a steady-state economy are: (1) promote new business models that generate shared value, (2) create business structures that are less prone to growth, and (3) adopt new measures for success for business.'

Our societies need a paradigm shift in what we value. We need to treat our environment and our planet with the respect that is essential for our survival as a species. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to alter the destructive path on which humanity is currently travelling.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

Join Newsletter

Please fill the text in this image in the field below to assist us in eliminating spam

Recent articles by Adnan Al-Daini
Jeremy Corbyn and his allies get set to slay the neoliberal beast in Britain

The ferocious beast of so called free-market capitalism needs to be put on a leash ...  
The march of renewable energy is unstoppable — even by President Trump

Donald Trump’s energy policy is doomed to failure as it comes into collision with ...  
Trump's travel ban is an affront to civilised values

How could a country that constantly lectures the world on human rights take such ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support Fearless Journalism

If you got something from this article, please consider making a one-off donation to support fearless journalism.

Single Donation


Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate