Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Recipe for a New, Healthy Canadian Economy for 2013

Ann Dale, Canada research chair in community sustainability at Royal Roads has formulated a recipe for a new and healthy Canadian economy for 2013.

Among other things, Dale argues we need to break our fixation with constant growth in Gross Domestic Product and replace that with more meaningful goals.  As The Guardian's enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, wrote recently, "sustainable growth" and "sustainability" are now polar opposites.

While others are going low-carb, Canadian political leaders should go low-carbon and start measuring some other metrics as well to slim down environmental risks and reduce ecological scarcities.

As Canada research chair in sustainable community development at Royal Roads University, I am exploring more sustainable development pathways. Along with my team, we brought together more than 100 researchers, practitioners, civil-society leaders and policymakers from across the country to participate in a workshop in the spring of 2012. Our objective was to look at what is working and not working with our current economic model based on growth, and there was unanimous consensus on what Canadian decision-makers need to act on.

We need to expand our measures of progress from a simple growth metric, the king of all indicators, the gross domestic product (GDP), to human well-being.

The evidence is very clear that the present economy based on perpetual growth, rising levels of debt and continuing ecological deficits cannot continue.

 Read Ann Dale's recommendations for action here.


crf said...

The link at the bottom doesn't work

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Chris. I hope it's fixed now. Happy New Year to you.

Bluegreenblogger said...

"As The Guardian's enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, wrote recently, "sustainable growth" and "sustainability" are now polar opposites."
That is simply not true. GDP is increasingly not related to production of goods. It has been a full generation since that was the case. We now live in a world where much, if not most GDP growth takes place in the service sector, where productivity, and human capital are the determinants of growth. Human ingenuity being what it is, there is no reason whatsoever why we cannot enjoy permanent growth in service productivity, while still reducing our footprint. Only people who do not really understand what the 'dismal science' of Economics has to say would make an argument like that.

The Mound of Sound said...

Why GBG, thank you so much. And all this time I was taking my false cues from people like Stiglitz, Roubini and Krugman when I ought to have been guided by you. Then again I suppose they have no clue about the "dismal science of economics." Can I give them your number?

Hugh said...

We need to keep growing the GDP because that is how we deal with our growing debt.

The debt keeps growing, so, as long as the GDP keeps growing we are ok, because the Debt/GDP ratio stays the same.

That seems to be the theory, anyway.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Hugh, that certainly was the theory in the past and it worked fine right up until our world's population neared 5-billion. In other words, the growth theory was more or less fine right through the 18th, the 19th and almost all of the 20th centuries.

The growth paradigm has lost its utility, its validity and the evidence of that is to be found in virtually every corner on Earth. It is manifest in spreading desertification, in deforestation, in the collapse of global fisheries, in the emptying of our aquifers and in many other ways.

How far can you grow in a finite biosphere such as the one and only environment that supports life on our planet?

As Lovelock argued several years ago, the path forward is one of sustainable retreat and it's not an option. While the BRIC and lesser economies continue to expand faster than our own there are going to be more place settings at the table and proportionately less to go around. China is already busy locking up resources in Africa, across the Pacific and even South America to get a leg up on us. That's a race we're losing.

Canada is one of just three or four countries not caught in the grips of this new reality. Unfortunately the U.S. isn't also one of the four. There is our true geopolitical problem.