Building a sustainable and desirable Economy-in-Society-in-Nature

New York, United Nations Division for Sustainable Development

Summary :

The world has changed dramatically. We no longer live in a world relatively empty of humans and their artifacts. We now live in the “Anthropocene,” era [1] in a full world where humans are dramatically altering our ecological life-support system [2]. Our traditional economic concepts and models were developed in an empty world. If we are to create sustainable prosperity, if we seek “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” [3] we are going to need a new vision of the economy and its relationship to the rest of the world that is better adapted to the new conditions we face. We are going to need an economics that respects plentary boundaries [4, 5], that recognizes the dependence of human well-being on social relations and fairness, and that recognizes that the ultimate goal is real, sustainable human well-being, not merely growth of material consumption. This new economics recognizes that the economy is embedded in society and culture that are themselves embedded in an ecological life-support system [6-9], and that the economy cannot grow forever on this finite planet.

This report is a synthesis of ideas about what this new economy-in-society-in-nature could look like and how we might get there. Most of the ideas presented here are not new. The co-authors of this report have published them in various forms over the last several decades, and many others have expressed similar ideas in venues too numerous to mention.

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