What does genuine economic progress look like? The orthodox answer is that a bigger economy is always better, but this idea is increasingly strained by the knowledge that, on a finite planet, the economy can’t grow for ever.
This week’s Addicted to Growth conference in Sydney is exploring how to move beyond growth economics and towards a “steady-state” economy.
But what is a steady-state economy? Why it is it desirable or necessary? And what would it be like to live in?
The global predicament
We used to live on a planet that was relatively empty of humans; today it is full to overflowing, with more people consuming more resources. We would need one and a half Earths to sustain the existing economy into the future. Every year this ecological overshoot continues, the foundations of our existence, and that of other species, are undermined.
At the same time, there are great multitudes around the world who are, by any humane standard, under-consuming, and the humanitarian challenge of eliminating global poverty is likely to increase the burden on ecosystems still further.
Meanwhile the population is set to hit 11 billion this century. Despite this, the richest nations still seek to grow their economies without apparent limit.