Book Review: Prosperity Without Growth - Economics for a Finite Planet

book jacket prosperity without growth image
Image via Earthscan

It's the beginning of a new year and with so many economic and environmental challenges ahead we need all the inspiration we can get to help us get over our Copenhangovers! For all the myriad of reasons that the Copenhagen Climate Summit failed surely the tensions over economic and industrial development are near the top of the list. As Alex Pasternak said in his excellent Cop 15 summary "The world treated COP15 like a trade treaty, not a peace treaty." So where to now? Tim Jackson's book Prosperity With out Growth - Economics for a Finite Planet might be a good place to start.Following on from The New Economics
This excellent book on the question unlimited of economic growth was published towards of last year and arrived hot on the heels of another monetary tome The New Economics by Andrew Simms and David Boyle of The New Economics Foundation.
As important as The Brundtland Report
By comparison to The New Economics engagingly light tone, Jackon's book is more of a heavy hitter formed in a serious academic style. Not that this make it inaccessible, the book has received high praise for its reevaluation of how "human society can flourish - within the ecological limits of a finite planet." Its importance for sustainable development has been compared to the Brundtland Report and author Dianne Dumanoski described it thus: "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."

A Highly Regarded Expert on Sustainability
With forewards from no less than four pioneering economic thinkers, Herman E Daly, Bill McKibben, Mary Robinson and Pavan Sukhdev you know Tim Jackson's work is highly regarded. As Economics Commissioner on the Sustainable Development Commission in the UK and a UK Government advisor in sustainable development, Jackson is a leading light in sustainability research. He has worked with Friends of the Earth, The New Economics Foundation and the Stockholm Environment Institute. In 2006 he founded RESOLVE - Research group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment at Surrey University where he is Professor of Sustainable Development.

Have we lost the real meaning of prosperity?
Prosperity Without Growth is divided into 12 manageable chapters, each dealing with an element of our society's current economic conundrum. Chapter 1 - Prosperity Lost starts with a quote from Obama from his Cooper Union speech on 27 March 2008, "I think all of us here today would acknowledge that we've lost that sense of shared prosperity." From this question of what it means to be prosperous, Jackson continues with questions about The Age of Irresponsibility, The Dilemma of Growth, and The 'Iron Cage' of Consumerism.

The ultimate dilemma of survival
The second half at the book searches for solutions to the problems outlined in the first half. Chapters include, Keynesianism and 'The Green New Deal', Ecological Macro-Economics and Flourishing - Within Limits. In his concluding chapter A Lasting Prosperity Jackson gets right to the crux of the matter, " Society is faced with a profound dilemma. To resist growth is to risk economic and social collapse. To pursue it relentlessly is to endanger the ecosystems on which we depend for long-term survival."

We must believe in our capacity for change
Jackson goes on to say that "The dilemma, once recognised, looms so dangerously over our future that we are desperate to believe in miracles." Thankfully Jackson doesn't ask us to believe in miracles, he clearly believes we are capable of significant and positive change. He finishes on an upbeat but urgent note, "A better and fairer social logic lies within our grasp. Neither ecological limits nor human nature constrain the possibilities here: only our capacity to believe in and work for change."

Prosperity Without Growth - Economics for a Finite Planet, published by Earthscan.

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