current affairs development politics sustainability

The question the G20 didn’t ask

I’ve been re-reading the G20’s statement today. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you peruse its contents at some point – you’ll find it here.

“We start from the belief that prosperity is indivisible” it says, in point 3 of 29, “that growth, to be sustained, has to be shared; and that our global plan for recovery must have at its heart the needs and jobs of hard working families, not just in developed countries but in emerging markets and the poorest countries of the world too; and must reflect the interests, not just of today’s population, but of future generations too.”

Lots to commend there – the needs of the poor, safe-guarding the future, and sharing the wealth. But did you catch the assumption at the start? ‘Growth, to be sustained…’ The question of growth, whether growth is what we need, was never up for debate.

And so it goes on for the rest of the document: “restore confidence, growth, and jobs”, “accelerate the return to trend growth”, “the engine of recent world growth”, “world trade growth has underpinned rising prosperity”, “investment is essential for restoring global growth”. On and on it goes, restoring growth, getting the world back onto the endless upward climb towards the sun.

I find it remarkable that people as intelligent as Barack Obama and Gordon Brown can’t see that infinite growth in a finite planet is impossible. We are overshooting the world’s biocapacity by a third, and we need more growth? And these same leaders will sit down and discuss climate change at the end of the year, and not think twice about it. The idea of growth is a monumental blindness in our current economic system.

“We are determined not only to restore growth but to lay the foundations for a fair and sustainable world economy” says the G20 statement. This is impossible, a chasing after the wind. “Sustainable global growth” is an oxymoron.

growth

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