The Impossibility of Growth | George Monbiot

The UK oil company Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo(8); one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east(9), the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people(10,11). These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

via The Impossibility of Growth | George Monbiot.

European Commission agrees to use social progress tool alongside GDP | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

Reposted from the Guardian.

In a breakthrough for campaigners seeking a more holistic approach to measuring the health of nations, the European Commission has committed to integrating social and environmental considerations into the heart of its economic decision making.

The EC’s director general of regional and urban policy, Walter Deffaa, has agreed to use the Social Progress Index (SPI), which enables countries to evaluate how effectively they translate economic success into social progress, as a key tool in deciding how to allocate €63.4bn to deprived regions in the European Union.

Focusing on GDP growth fails to account for the value of nature

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The index uses 52 indicators ranging from healthcare and housing to ecosystem sustainability and freedom from discrimination.

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An EC spokesman said: “Going beyond GDP is a longstanding interest of the Commission services. Through this work we hope to understand where GDP is a poor proxy for a region’s quality of life or its social progress.”

While it is no easy task to create an SPI for all 272 regions in 28 European countries, the EC says the ability for different countries to share knowledge on socially innovative policies “was identified as a key demand arising from policymakers”.

Harvard professor Michael Porter, the creator of the concept of shared value, created the index in 2013, arguing it made no sense to be measuring success purely on the idea of growth at a time when countries are facing massive social upheavals.

Rather than seeking to integrate wellbeing and happiness into the economic agenda, the SPI looks only at social and environmental considerations and therefore gives them authority in their own right, enabling them to be compared and contrasted with traditional economic measures.

via European Commission agrees to use social progress tool alongside GDP | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian.

California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth – NYTimes.com

APRIL 4, 2015

LOS ANGELES — For more than a century, California has been the state where people flocked for a better life — 164,000 square miles of mountains, farmland and coastline, shimmering with ambition and dreams, money and beauty. It was the cutting-edge symbol of possibility: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, aerospace, agriculture and vineyards.

But now a punishing drought — and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption — is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.

The 25 percent cut in water consumption ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown raises fundamental questions about what life in California will be like in the years ahead, and even whether this state faces the prospect of people leaving for wetter climates — assuming, as Mr. Brown and other state leaders do, that this marks a permanent change in the climate, rather than a particularly severe cyclical drought.

This state has survived many a catastrophe before — and defied the doomsayers who have regularly proclaimed the death of the California dream — as it emerged, often stronger, from the challenges of earthquakes, an energy crisis and, most recently, a budgetary collapse that forced years of devastating cuts in spending. These days, the economy is thriving, the population is growing, the state budget is in surplus, and development is exploding from Silicon Valley to San Diego; the evidence of it can be seen in the construction cranes dotting the skylines of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But even California’s biggest advocates are wondering if the severity of this drought, now in its fourth year, is going to force a change in the way the state does business.

Can Los Angeles continue to dominate as the country’s capital of entertainment and glamour, and Silicon Valley as the center of high tech, if people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes and water bills become prohibitively expensive? Will tourists worry about coming? Will businesses continue their expansion in places like San Francisco and Venice?

Continue reading the main story

via California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth – NYTimes.com.

John Muir’s Last Stand

The postmodern greens aim to reorient conservation’s primary focus away from establishing protected areas intended to help prevent human-caused extinctions and to sustain large-scale natural ecosystems. Instead, they advocate sustainable management of the biosphere to support human aspirations, particularly for a growing global economy. If some species go extinct that may be regrettable, goes their thinking, but the bottom line is that nature is resilient. As long as “working landscapes” (places we manipulate to produce commodities) are managed well enough to sustain “ecosystem services” (things like water filtration, soil health, and crop pollination), human welfare can be supported without lots of new protected areas (habitat for other species) getting in the way of economic growth.

Some of the most prominent of these new conservationists have warned against critiquing the techno-industrial growth economy that is everywhere gobbling up wild nature. “Instead of scolding capitalism,” they write, “conservationists should partner with corporations in a science-based effort to integrate the value of nature’s benefits into their operations and cultures.”

via John Muir’s Last Stand.

‘Deglobalization’ Is the Way to Reduce Inequality | Pablo Solon

The race of globalization is leaving the majority of the world’s population far behind. According to Unicef, the richest 20 percent of the population gets 83 percent of global income, while the poorest quintile has just 1 percent. This trend is getting worse. A new UNDP report called “Humanity Divided” estimates that 75 percent of the population lives in societies where income distribution is less equal now than it was in the 1990s, although global GDP ballooned from $22 trillion to $72 trillion.

For developing economies in Asia, the Gini coefficient — which measures income inequality on a scale from zero to one where one is worst — rose from 0.33 in 1990 to 0.46 in 2010.

Inequality corresponds with greater economic uncertainty, lower investment and high social tensions and political instability — with the potential for violence and conflicts between groups. It demolishes human rights for the vast majority, especially for vulnerable groups like women, children and the elderly…..

via ‘Deglobalization’ Is the Way to Reduce Inequality | Pablo Solon.