Forging a Path to Sustainable Development
Edited by Philip Lawn
Chapter 5: Prosperity without growth
GDP growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally. A fifth of the world’s population earns just 2 per cent of global income (UNDP, 2005). Inequality is higher in the OECD nations than it was 20 years ago. And while the rich got richer, middle-class incomes in Western countries were stagnant in real terms long before the 2007 global recession. Far from raising the living standard for those who most needed it, growth let much of the world’s population down. Wealth trickled up to the lucky few. Fairness (or the lack of it) is just one of several reasons to question the conventional formula for achieving prosperity. As the economy expands, so do the resource implications associated with it. These impacts are already unsustainable. In the last quarter of a century, the global economy has doubled, while an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded. Global carbon emissions have risen by 40 per cent since 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol ‘base year’). Significant scarcity in key resources – such as oil – may be less than a decade away.
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