1st Edition

Sustaining Prosperity, Nature and Wellbeing What do the Indicators Tell Us?

By Peter Bartelmus Copyright 2018
    242 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    242 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores what is needed for an overall evaluation of the prosperity and wellbeing of people within a framework of sustaining the economy, environment and development.

    The book begins by assessing the validity of available data, indicators and indices in decision and policy making. It describes what the data tell us about the effects of economic activity on the quality of life and prosperity of people and nations, now and in the future, and highlights how a reliance on partial and distorted information can thwart rational policies. It also examines whether less tangible notions of wellbeing and happiness lend themselves to quantification and prediction. Overall, Bartelmus demonstrates the need for integrated accounting and analysis to revise policy priorities around environmental, social, economic and sustainability concerns.

    Confronting the persisting polarization of environmentalists and economists, this book will be of great relevance to students, scholars and professionals with an interest in environmental and ecological economics, sustainability indicators and their use in integrative policy. 

    Lists of figures

    List of tables

    List of boxes




    1 Environmental impacts: triggering sustainability concerns

    2 A framework for concepts and measures of sustainability



    3 We, the people: are we better off?

    4 We, the nation: towards a sustainable economy

    5 Modeling economic sustainability: will we be better off?



    6 How much nature do we use?

    7 Sustainability: reaching the limits?



    8 What do we want: happiness, wellbeing, the good life?

    9 What can we get?

    10 Sustainable development: blueprint or fig leaf?


    11 What do the indicators tell us?

    12 Strategies, policies, politics

    13 Bridging the environmental–economic polarization


    Annex: A brief history of sustainability science and thought


    Peter Bartelmus is an honorary professor at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany. After his work in the United Nations, he taught economics of sustainable development at Wuppertal and Columbia (USA) universities.

    "An excellent coverage of the theory and practice of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, aiming ultimately at improving happiness and wellbeing, characterizes this book. Peter Bartelmus, helps us identify balanced inclusive green growth (BIGG) pathways to achieve sustainability in the twenty-first century. The book is a must-read for decision-makers, researchers and the concerned public." Mohan Munasinghe, Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND), Shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace (Vice Chair IPCC-AR4), Sri Lanka

    "Peter Bartelmus is one of the most eminent global environmental scholars and his new book is proof of his status. His extraordinary experience and deep knowledge bring a very necessary insight into the complex issue of economic and social development constrained by planetary environmental processes. Is there any progress? Can we reliably assess it? These are the questions for which the book gives clear answers - answers that are the more useful today when we have the Global Sustainable Development goals and badly need a good measuring stick to fathom their effectiveness." Bedrich Moldan, Director of Environment Center, First Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic

    "I recommend this book to all scientists, who see long-run environmental sustainability as the essential human project of our times. Peter Bartelmus is one of the leaders of the team that created the first "Green Accounting" framework for the UN Statistical Office. Now he brings all of that background into a single magnum opus. Recognizing that policy without science and science without quantification are useless, Bartelmus asks ‘are we better off today than we were 50 or 100 years ago?’ and ‘can we expect to be better off in the future?’" Robert U. Ayres, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Political Science, Technology Management, INSEAD, France

    "Sustaining Prosperity, Nature and Wellbeing is a pragmatic, hard-nosed overview of how our understanding of sustainability squares off with the notions of economic growth and the broader concepts of prosperity and wellbeing from the point of view of measurement. Peter’s book is informed by his nearly unparalleled, decades-long scholarship in a perennially important field and a timely reminder that we still have much to do to make sure we apply what we already know about accounting for sustainability consistently in policy and practice." Laszlo Pinter, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University (CEU), Hungary

    "Peter Bartelmus new book is a historic, contemporary and future oriented work on sustainable growth and development. It looks for objective answers, using well-defined concepts and indicators of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and ‘greened’ economic activity. The indicators tell that we know a great deal about economic prosperity, environmental integrity and damage, about green and dirty technology, while other aspects of wellbeing and policy making still lack systemic frameworks of measurement and evaluation. The author tries to open a thorough discourse between politicians, civil society and researchers who want to make us better off." Udo E. Simonis, Professor of Environmental Policy at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), Germany

    "Few people have a command of economic and environmental data and their integration equal to that of Peter Bartelmus. In this important new book, he draws on his extensive knowledge to assess the data on prosperity, nature and wellbeing, and its reliability as a foundation for policy." Peter A. Victor, Professor Emeritus, York University, UK

    "This comprehensive assessment of economic, environmental and wellbeing indicators provides an excellent basis for measuring how well present economic developments make us feel better off or not.  The author concludes that the best way forward is internalizing measures of environmental damage and wellbeing into economic frameworks such as national accounting." Jan W. van Tongeren, Ex-Chief National Accounting UNSD and Ex-Researcher Tilburg University, Netherlands