Apart from the Greens, all political parties say economic growth is essential. And many Councils, like Herefordshire, list economic growth among their key objectives.
What do we mean by economic growth? If we mean an end to poverty and inequality – a fairer share of wealth for everyone, then good. If we simply mean people buying more and more stuff they don’t need and can’t afford, definitely not.
In my view, the economic model we are being sold cannot deliver true prosperity, emotional wellbeing, equality and long-term security. It treats natural resources as expendable and disposable. It mortgages the future and threatens our descendants with poorer lives. Under the gig economy, people are treated as economic units to be exploited.
Pushing economic growth without considering the timescale is dumb. Is growing the economy meant to stop at some point or continue forever? Is endless growth possible? A finite planet with limited resources surely cannot support a growing population with ever-higher levels of consumption – however fast technology develops.
Expectation of endless economic growth is the key driving force behind our over-exploitation of natural resources. Measuring prosperity by consumption (GDP) perpetuates this economic system and threatens to make our planet uninhabitable.
The green movement is often accused of being unrealistic and impractical, but what is absolutely unrealistic is clinging to the out-dated and unthinking belief that we can go on expanding on a finite planet without consequences.
Global warming could be the nudge we need to re-think our approach – if we can get past the denial and wishful thinking about clean technologies. We can’t possibly run our high-consuming energy-intensive society on renewable energy alone without making other significant changes. We have to divest from over-consumption – not just from fossil fuels.
Securing our long-term future requires us to move away from the consumption-obsessed growth-based, values of global capitalism. This is a huge challenge, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that tinkering with business-as-usual will be enough. There are no proven models out there that we absolutely know will work. But that shouldn’t stop us exploring the possibilities.