“Enough should be the central concept in economics,” writes Herman Daly, a Global Footprint Network advisor and one of the founders of ecological economics, in the forward to the fascinating new book, “Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.”
The book challenges the dominant thesis of contemporary economics: Growth at any cost. Authors Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill start from the observation that the world economy, as it is currently run, is causing long-term environmental, societal and economic damage. They go on to map out alternative paths toward a steady-state economy (an economy with stable or mildly fluctuating size), one that prioritizes human well-being above growth and places economic activity squarely within ecological limits.
The authors argue compellingly that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a rather poor indicator of progress, ignoring significant aspects of human flourishing as well as externalizing costs such as air pollution or soil degradation. Several alternatives indicators to GDP are taking off. Among those mentioned in the book are the European Commission’s Beyond GDP initiative, the OECD’s Better Life Initiative, the Ecological Footprint, the Genuine Progress Indicator, the U.K.‘s Sustainable Development Indicators, the Happy Planet Index, and the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress launched by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Indeed, the Ecological Footprint is one tool for helping nations move beyond the narrow GDP-focus that is helping to exacerbate the trends of ecological overshoot over the past few decades. As the authors say, “‘We manage what we measure’ is a cliché often uttered in business boardrooms, but it rings true. You could also say that we ‘mismanage what we mismeasure.’” Insofar as we are not measuring our demand on and capacity to provide ecological resources, we are mismanaging not only our economies, but our future.
Dietz is editor of Daly News and was the first director of CASSE (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy); O’Neill is lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds and the chief economist at CASSE.