Ecological Footprint Image Green Footprint Network News
Volume 1 Issue 16 

World Falling Short on Goal to Halt Species Declines
Sustainable Growth “Biggest Question Confronting Humanity” says Financial Times
In California, A Model for the Good Life, On a One-Planet Budget
Wales Looks at Policies To Shrink Its Footprint
Global Footprint Network Joins Together Campaign to Fight Climate Change
European Commission Completes Footprint Review
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Our mission is to promote a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement tool that makes the reality of planetary limits relevant to decision-makers.

Sustainable Growth “Biggest Question Confronting Humanity” says Financial Times

   Image from Financial Times, June 10, 2008, "Sustaining growth is the century’s big challenge"  

Can the planet support the majority of humans enjoying the same standard of living as people in high income nations?  That will be “the biggest question confronting humanity in the 21st century,” reporter Martin Wolf writes in a June 10 column of the Financial Times. The answer, he says, “will determine whether this will be a world of hope rather than despair and of peace rather than conflict.”


Wolf’s column joins a rising chorus of concern (see recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and by Paul Krugman in the New York Times) that world economic growth is bumping up against ecological reality.  Wolf describes himself as an individual inclined toward free-market solutions, and skeptical of predictions of environmental doom. “But it has become evident, at least to me,” he writes, “that the human impact on the planet on which we depend has risen to enormous proportions.” Wolf quotes data from Peter Vitousek of Stanford University that humans now exploit 50 percent of terrestrial photosynthetic potential for their own use, have made extinct a quarter of all bird species and are responsible for a quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “We are masters of the planet now,” he writes. “The great question for the 21st century is whether we can be masters of ourselves.”

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Read Martin Wolf’s column.

Post CommentsRead Comments (2)


Posted by Dick Morris on 09/16/2008 at 10:53 AM (Aberdeenshire, UK)

It has taken a long time for the financial world to begin to appreciate that there may be limits to untrammelled economic growth.  Unfortunately, the whole system of leveraged investment that has sustained the obscene profits and bonuses in the financial sector depends on such growth, so there has been every incentive to pretend it can continue, in order not to erode “confidence”. This has extended even to a takeover of the language. A reduction in economic growth is inevitably headlined as a “threat” rather than just a change, house price growth is never referred to as “inflation” and even a serious newspaper such as the UK’s Independent can headline that a month of zero economic growth means that the “economy is grinding to a halt”.  This bias in language skews the debate, and until such pernicious use of language is changed, there is little chance of a more rational economic system.

Posted by Wulf Greve on 09/16/2008 at 08:42 AM (Hamburg, Germany)

Indefinite growth of cell-units within an organism is called cancer.
If the unit is the individuuum and the organism is the globe it is called sustainable growth.
The Club of Rome report remains readable.

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