“The myth of growth has failed us. It has failed the two billion who still live on less than $2 a day. It has failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, spectacularly, in its own terms, to provide economic stability and secure people’s livelihoods”.
These are the words of Tim Jackson, academic and researcher, at the University of Surrey and writer of the book “Prosperity without Growth”. Jackson was also present at the Brussels Economic Forum which is an annual convention organised by the European Commission bringing together high-level speakers and influential intellectuals dealing with economic and societal challenges. This year the agenda included the topics of a new kind of growth and a new social contract for Europe.
For too long we have been living on the wrong assumption that growth will be able to be maintained indefinitely. This is at odds with common sense and scientific knowledge. The exploitation of the scarce resources of our planet and the destruction of our fragile ecological system have put the most vulnerable people of our societies at risk. The abundance of the lifestyle of a few is threatening the foundation of life for millions of people. It is crucial to escape the “growth brings jobs narrative” that has been dominant in public opinion and which does not acknowledge the social and environmental externalities growth implicates.
Jackson says that “every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours is the myth of economic growth. For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world.” And still, we ask ourselves where this growth has brought us and how it has been distributed. In fact, this growth has created wealth for a few and was founded on ecological destruction and exacerbating social inequalities. It also neglects the fact that prosperity is a broader concept than pure material pleasure. Prosperity entails social cohesion, reliance on public services, healthy societies and well-being no matter your social class.
SOLIDAR is convinced that only a holistic, inclusive and sustainable approach to growth is possible in ensuring that the big challenges of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation will be successfully tackled in the future. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. People at the margins of society and with the biggest vulnerabilities are also those who are the first victims of climate change and its disastrous consequences. Justice is not only social, it’s also ecological.