An academic call to move beyond GDP

Did you catch this in the news last week? Coinciding with the Postgrowth conference in Brussels, a group of over 200 academics published an open letter to the EU:

For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.

It’s a concise precis of the postgrowth proposition, if you want to read the whole thing. Their particular focus is on the EU. Growth might be necessary in many parts of the world where people don’t have enough, but the challenge for developed countries is different. It ought to be about sharing our prosperity better, and living within the natural limits of the earth’s generosity.

As well as being a useful summary of the debate, the open letter demonstrates how broad the agreement is. The idea of limits to growth has broad support in academia, with various political parties and policy-makers involved too. This letter and the attention it has garnered might just be one more step towards mainstream debate.

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