Grossly Deficient Paradigm?

The people who, decades ago, created the metric “Gross Domestic Product” questioned its value in reflecting a nation’s success, but that is what it went on to do. GDP showed the health of a nation as judged by the by the wealth in its economy. And yet, “GDP does not distinguish between waste, luxury, and a satisfaction of fundamental needs,” as the Post Carbon Institute’s Richard Heinberg recently put it. GDP is a measurement of “product,” derived primarily from extracting as many resources as possible, producing, selling, and buying as much stuff as possible. And so our homes are filled with it, closets, garages, storage spaces bursting with it, all of it derived from mined materials, wood from disappearing forests, plant fibers, and oil based plastics, synthetics and chemicals from the labs, that remain in our bodies, soil and water. Thanks to all this, corporate profits have soared, but the earth’s health and our happiness haven’t. One economics grad student, Wanda Lowry, called it “Grossly Deficient Paradigm.” So then, can it be questioned seriously enough to consider healthier forms of growth instead?

Maybe this nascent Occupy Movement will give weight to more inclusive metrics for judging our living standards, such as Gross National Happiness (Bhutan), Genuine Progress Indicator (Canada, U.S.), Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (U.S.), The Happy Planet Index (UK), and Beyond GDP (International Initiative).

Barbara Hirsch, of Santa Barbara, is the author of Ecofacts, a weekly mailing from which this is excerpted.

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