Addicted to Growth
Societal Therapy for a Sustainable Wellbeing Future
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This book takes a compelling approach to describing what is needed to create the kind of future that most people on Earth really want. Our global society is hopelessly addicted to a particular vision of the world and a future that has become both unsustainable and undesirable.
Addicted to Growth frames our current predicament as a societal addiction to a ‘growth at all costs’ economic paradigm. While economic growth has produced many benefits, its side effects are now producing existential problems that are rapidly getting worse. Robert Costanza considers lessons from what works at the individual level to overcome addictions and applies them to a societal scale. Costanza recognises that the first step to recovery is recognising the addiction and that it is leading to disaster; however, simply pointing out the dire consequences of our societal addiction is only the first step and can be counterproductive by itself in motivating change. The key next step is creating a truly shared vision of the kind of world we all want, and the book explores creative ways to implement this societal therapy. The final step is using that shared vision to motivate the changes needed to achieve it, including adaptive transformations of our economic systems, property rights regimes, and governance institutions.
An exciting contribution from a key thinker in the field, this book will be a valuable resource to students and scholars of public policy and sustainability studies, and anyone interested in understanding and overcoming our societal addiction to growth.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents Acknowledgements List of Figures List of Tables Foreword by Sandrine Dixson-Declève Preface Summary 1. Understanding The Addiction: Where Are We And How Did We Get Here? 2. Acknowledging The Addiction: We Know The Problems – Why Haven’t We Solved Them? 3. Wellbeing Economics: A New Vision Of How The World Works and How It Could Be Better 4. Active Therapy: Shared Goals For A Sustainable And Desirable Future 5. Creating A Sustainable And Desirable Future: How Do We Get From Here There? 6: Sustaining A Better World In 2050 And Beyond: Ongoing Envisioning And Adaptive Management Epilogue References Index
Robert Costanza, PhD, FASSA, FRSA, is Professor of Ecological Economics at the Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London. He is a prolific and highly cited author of over 600 scientific articles and 28 books. His transdisciplinary research integrates the study of humans and the rest of nature towards creating a sustainable wellbeing future.
"Robert Costanza has long been one of the most creative, innovative - and practical - scholars working to understand and correct our failing economic and political systems, work that has never been more needed. With his concise new book, Addicted to Growth, he focuses on the powerful complex of misguided values and forces behind the growth imperative and, most important, offers a therapy for overcoming our enthrallment and societal addiction to growth. Highly recommended."
James Gustave Speth, former dean, Yale School of the Environment, and author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.
"Unlimited growth in a finite and entropic world is the opiate, the pipe dream, of economists and politicians. Could this collective addiction be cured by the same therapies that have been successful in curing individual addicts? Costanza makes a persuasive case that eliciting the lure of society’s desired goals and visions is a more effective therapy than yet more description of its already obvious failures. A very thoughtful and well written book by a pioneering thinker!"
Herman Daly, Emeritus Professor, University of Maryland
"This unique and ground-breaking book is a must-read for all who despair at the failure of science, politics, and economics to stop climate change, resource depletion, and ecological destruction. We are addicts hooked on growth and materialist gain, and if we want to cure ourselves, we need good therapy. Societal Therapy highlights the utter seriousness of our present insanity and at the same time offers a practical path to real healing and recovery."
Ronald Coleman, GPI Atlantic
"This book is not only an exciting journey into the latest scientific research, but also a beautiful blueprint of practical policies and solutions that we could already apply - not only to avoid climate catastrophe, but to create prosperity and happiness across the planet."
Prof. Lorenzo Fioramonti, Director of the Institute for Sustainability, University of Surrey
Former Minister of Education, University and Research (Italy)
"We will never achieve the regenerative, prosperous, and fair economy that we all want unless we recognize the addictions that are holding us back and implement the therapy needed to overcome them. This book starts the conversation about what that therapy can look like and the need to get all segments of society involved in making it happen."
L. Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions
"For everyone deeply concerned about our common future, "Addicted to Growth" is a must read. Costanza provides a narrative about the future that few can resist. But he does not stop there. His proposal is to engage as many citizens as possible in a thorough conversation using the narrative as a base. Since conventional politics seems unable to lead the way, Costanza´s approach offers genuine hope."
Anders Wijkman, Chairman, Swedish Association of Recycling Industries
"As we face up to climate change, economic crises, pandemics, pollution and more, we need big ideas like this to challenge traditional thinking."
Kate E Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York and Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus, Social Epidemiology, Univeristy of Nottingham"If we are going to have any possibility of achieving a sustainable and equitable world we need to develop new indicators to guide us along this path. The idea that we could tackle poverty through growth has proven to be ineffective and insufficient, as we have witnessed inequality rise to unprecedented levels for decades and all over the world. In addition to redistribution we need to focus on the scale of the human economy, as we have surpassed the planet's carrying capacity and we are having a devastating impact on our global common resources: the atmosphere, the oceans and biodiversity. Bob Costanza has done us a real service by writing this book, which should be required reading for every concerned citizen and policy maker."
Alvaro Umaña Quesada, Senior Research Fellow at CATIE and former Environment Minister of Costa Rica
"In this most readable of books, Professor Robert Costanza brings together storytelling, economics, science and common sense to explain to anyone honest enough to want to learn and take action, that modern day civilization is in a dangerous trap and that if we are to break free we have to unlearn and redesign much of what we take for granted in the way we run our societies. And this highly destructive trap is addiction; not substance abuse, our mobile phones or pornography. It is instead our worthless and destructive pursuit of growth at all cost whilst disregarding the impacts on the natural world and social systems. This is an addiction like no other, yet the book points to how we might navigate our way out and build a different pathway for human wellbeing and prosperity. This is the new economic thinking we so desperately need."
Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO, Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT)
"Societies get trapped in patterns of behaviour. This book shows us how to break the mold, get beyond our growth addiction, build consensus and shape alternative futures. Powerful and persuasive, Bob Costanza maps how ecological economics can contribute to understanding how we might change social goals, rules and behaviour. Crafting multiple plausible futures that chart a way forward we can agree on is the first step on the road to sustainable prosperity."
Dame Henrietta Moore, Director, Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London
"Here, at last, is an incisive diagnosis of the most infectious disease that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. This book cannot fail to inspire readers into ‘co-creating the world we want’ by choosing to support and engage in the author’s listing of the therapeutic measures that are already in motion."
Jigme Yoser Thinley, Former Prime Minister of Bhutan
"Confronted with the new realities of the Anthropocene, Robert Costanza, in his new book Addicted to Growth, presents societal therapy solutions for how to transform human paradigms and actions towards sustainable futures. A highly inspirational contribution for the necessary shift in worldviews and the cultural evolution of our times."
Carl Folke, Professor and Director of the Beijer Institute, and founder and Chair of the Board of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden
"As usual, Bob Costanza is ahead of the curve and ahead of the pack--this is a fascinating way of looking at our crisis, using a model that all of us can understand."
Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College, author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon
"The future of humanity is threatened by our dependence on consumption of non-renewable resources and our seeming inability to change old ways of thinking about our relationships with the natural world. This book not only gives fresh insights into the nature of the problem but also the hope of societal therapies that could cure us of our addiction and give us renewed ability to create hopeful futures"
Steve Cork, Honorary Associate Professor, Australian National University, Co-Author Millenium Ecosystem Assessment Scenarios
"One of the notable features of Robert Costanza's many contributions in his long and remarkable career is his penchant for introducing novel ideas and approaches to discussions and disputes that have reached an impasse. In Addicted to Growth, he says that if economic growth is an addiction, as it clearly is, argument will not suffice. To free ourselves from this addiction we should treat it as one. In this original and thought provoking book, Dr. Costanza tells us how."
Peter Victor, Professor Emeritus at York University, Canada, and author of "Escape from Overshoot" and "Managing without Growth"
"The journey of the book is of the engineering of a paradigm shift, from our current dominant and narrow model of economic ‘growth at all costs’ (addictive and inequitable short-term rewards, achieved by means that are detrimental and unsustainable in the long term) towards a broader vision of greater wellbeing that embraces and seeks to rebuild foundational natural, human and social capitals supporting greater and more rounded life satisfaction: the ‘sustainable wellbeing future’.‘Addicted to Growth’ does not present a panacea to society’s woes, but it does provide a reasoned and science-based transition pathway requiring the engagement of all of us, across all societal sectors and at intergovernmental scale."
Mark Everard, The Institution of Environmental Sciences