Introduction: Growth and the environment

Economic growth is a central theme in economic thinking and it is usually presented as a social good – a necessity for social development. In this theme, we look at economic growth through a pair of ecological economics glasses. When we do this, several problems arise. Among other things, it becomes apparent that there are limits to growth in a biophysical sense, but there are also challenges regarding the way we measure economic growth. One can justifiably ask whether the measure of economic growth we currently use (GDP) is the right one at a time when the economy is changing and our world is being threatened by growing environmental crises. Finally, attention may also be paid to the fact that growth is a social dilemma because while on the one hand it is a successful recipe for welfare and stability, on the other hand, it involves significant environmental consequences.

Next: Biophysical limits to growth