Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson – a top sustainability adviser to the UK government – makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations.
No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity – and there is no evidence to suggest that we can – we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth.
Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish – within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times.
This book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine year history when it was launched earlier this year. In recent weeks this has contributed to a burgeoning debate about economic growth and its consequences for the planet - President Sarkozy has asked world leaders to join a revolution in the measurement of economic progress, Sir Nicholas Stern has warned 'at some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth', and John Prescott has called the current economic growth model 'immoral'.
"In the teeth of the economic crisis, Jackson has written the most important book that could possibly be written now."
James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World
"This might well become as important for sustainable development as the Brundtland Report."
Paul-Marie Boulanger, Director of IDD
"Prosperity without Growth's hugely encouraging and thrilling theme is that humanity can prosper without growth. In fact there is no other way left to us."
Dr Robert Goodland, former Adviser to the World Bank Group, winner of World Conservation Union's Coolidge Medal of Honor, 2008
"Tim Jackson's book simply resets the agenda for Western society."
Bernie Bulkin, SDC commissioner for Climate Change, Energy and Transport, former Chief Scientist of BP
"Jackson goes after the complacency and dishonesty at the heart of contemporary politics, and provides a brilliant and compelling account of the crucial importance of the growth debate."
Jonathon Porritt, former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission
"The best account of the financial crises and the state of society I have read in a long time. . . The beauty is that the change that is needed will make us happier."
Clare Short, MP
"Zero growth is not only necessary, it is inevitable and will supercede Selfish Capitalism. In this brilliant analysis, Tim Jackson has laid bare a system in crisis and has lit the way forward."
Oliver James, Author of Affluenza
"What makes it unthinkable to stop growth even though it is killing us? Tim Jackson boldly confronts the structural Catch-22 that drives this madness and proposes in this lucid, persuasive, and blessedly readable book how we might begin to get off the fast track to self-destruction. Don't miss it!"
Dianne Dumanoski, author of The End of the Long Summer and co-author of Our Stolen Future
"Tim Jackson cuts through the official cant and wishful thinking to tell us what we have refused to admit – we cannot preserve a habitable planet and pursue endless economic growth at the same time. In an era when all ideologies have failed, this book lays out the basis for the only viable political philosophy for the 21st century."
Clive Hamilton, Author of Growth Fetish and Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Australia (Forthcoming Earthscan title: Requiem for a Species)
"Endless growth on a finite planet, or endless misery-spreading recession, both represent impossible futures. Here are some very powerful steps towards a possible, indeed a very hopeful, alternate outcome!"
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy
"We live in a finite world but with infinite demands. Human wants, political convenience and intellectual inertia trump planetary limits. Tim Jackson makes headway in setting signposts towards a more sustainable future."
Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
"Tim Jackson's book clearly demonstrates how our passion for consumption drives unsustainable results and it opens up the potential for a new model of consumerism that delivers a more sustainable world."
Chris Tuppen, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT
1 Prosperity Lost
2 The Age of Irresponsiblity
3 Redefining Prosperity
4 The Dilemma of Growth
5 The Myth of Decoupling
6 The 'Iron Cage' of Consumerism
7 Keynesianism and the 'Green New Deal'
8 Ecological Macro-Economics
9 Flourishing - within Limits
10 Governance for Prosperity
11 The Transition to a Sustainable Economy
12 A Lasting Prosperity
Tim Jackson is Economics Commissioner on the UK Sustainable Development Commission. He is also Professor of Sustainable Development in the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) at the University of Surrey and Director of the ESRC Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE).
From June 2004 to March 2006, he was the sole academic representative on the UK Sustainable Consumption Round Table and in 2006 published the Earthscan Reader on Sustainable Consumption. Tim led the team which developed the Surrey Environmental Lifestyle Mapping (SELMA) model used to estimate the UK's 'carbon footprint' for the Carbon Trust. He is a co-author of the WorldWatch Institute's influential State of the World 2008 on sustainable economies.
His current research interests include consumer behaviour, sustainable energy systems, ecological economics and environmental philosophy. In the last twelve years he has pioneered the development of an ‘adjusted’ measure of economic growth – a ‘green GDP’ – for the UK. Since January 2003, Tim has been employed at CES under a research fellowship on the ‘social psychology’ of consumer behaviour. Supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the fellowship aims to review the extensive literature on consumer behaviour and tease out the implications for sustainable consumption policy.
In addition to his academic work, Tim is a professional playwright with numerous radio-writing credits for the BBC. His environmental drama The Cry of the Bittern won a Public Awareness of Science Drama Award in 1998. His most recent play, Variations, won the 2007 Grand Prix Marulic and is longlisted for the 2008 Sony Drama award.
Direct Pecuniary Interests
Member of the Advisory Board of BankInvest’s ‘New Energy Solutions’ Investment Fund
Indirect Pecuniary Interests
Member - NCC Forum on Responsible Production and Consumption
Member-- UK Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption
Member --- Strategic Advisory Team, EPSRC Infrastructure and Environment Programme
Associate of the New Economics Foundation
Member of Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth
Sponsor: Action Aid, Oxfam, Barnardo’s
Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet
By Tim Jackson with forewords by Herman Daly, Bill McKibben, Mary Robinson and Pavan Sukhdev
Published by Earthscan
Posted on Environment Times online on 6th November 2009.