Third in a (sort of) series In a world in which one in seven people is undernourished, it seems unconscionable to talk about policies that slow economic growth. In a world in which we use the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide our resources and absorb our waste, it seems unconscionable not to.
This, I think, is the great – and often unspoken – divide in progressive politics today. The United States has long equated the nation’s well-being with its median standard of living, and we use economic growth to measure human progress. For the last 70 or 80 years, the Gross Domestic Product has been the measuring stick of America’s prosperity . . . and even of its people’s personal happiness.
That whole notion is under attack – from Joseph Stiglitz’s Mismeasuring Our Lives to Woody Tasch’s Slow Money to Bill McKibben’s Eaarth. And yet, when a hard choice must be made, we continue to treat environmental issues as a luxury to be addressed after we have solved the more immediate economic problems.
Everyone’s mantra in this election is “jobs.” And while Republicans attack environmentalists as job killers, Democrats bring them to the table to discuss “green jobs” and to figure out how to build future growth on alternative energy and better management of ecosystem services.
That’s all fine. But the deeper question is whether the model of economic growth, in whatever form, is viable any more. That question – as we are already beginning to see in issues such as the Keystone pipeline and “fracking” – threatens to divide the current Democratic coalition.