New Discussion Paper: Sustainable Growth or Growth vs. Sustainability

QCEA has just published a discussion paper which examines the relationships between resource use, climate emissions and economic growth.

“Sustainable Growth or Growth vs. Sustainability” is intended to stimulate discussion and debate on how our economic system relates  to the many interlinked challenges that face the world today –  climate change, energy supply, growing economic inequality, global poverty, financial crises, food security, water stress, resource scarcity and conflicts relating to many of these issues.

Sustainable Economic Growth? What are the relationships between economic growth and resource use? Image CC BY Images_of_Money via Flickr

In particular, this discussion paper focuses on economic growth, resource consumption and climate change. The briefing encourages people to think beyond personal commitments to sustainable lifestyles, and to examine how the economic systems we participate in are implicated in poverty and inequality, environmental degradation and climate change.

Quakers have never been shy of challenging the status quo, from institutionalised slavery to compulsory military service, and the assumptions upon which the hegemonic economic paradigm rest might be seen as a new frontier. To quote Quaker Faith and Practice, 23.5:

“economic affairs are now so central to our whole existence that no other aspect of personal relationships or individual life-styles can now be looked at without first understanding what it means in terms of our national wealth, incomes, and their distribution.”

– David Eversley, 1976

This discussion paper is an introduction, and only explores part of an enormously complex picture. Beginning with the conventional wisdom, it then looks at the critiques and debates that increasingly surround issues like economic growth and its overarching purpose, environmental externalities,  finite resources, ecological space, relative and absolute decoupling, rates of efficiency increases,  technology, the precautionary principle and sustainability.

These issues are critical to the biggest threats of our time: to our climate; to food sovereignty; to energy and water security; to the incidence of poverty; and to the potential for violent conflict and growing injustice.

Whether or not we choose to engage with them does not alter the fact that they are vital to any serious consideration of a sustainable and peaceful future.

QCEA encourages Quaker and non-Quaker groups to read this paper, engage in the discussion, and to consider:

Since the industrial revolution, rapid economic growth has been entwined with the use of fossil fuel. What next? Image CC BY Images_of_Money vis Flickr

  • What kind of changes to our systems, and to our lives, would help create a sustainable economy?
  • What stands in my/our way to bring about these changes?
  • What should our government/the EU do to help bring about change?
  • Within the framework of the world as it is, what can be done to send the necessary messages to politicians (i.e. what kind of consumer behaviour, political activism, etc. is feasible)?
  • How do we imagine a different, more sustainable and just economic framework, and how could we make a peaceful transition to it from the world as it is today?
  • How can we team up with others elsewhere to magnify our voices on these issues?

You can download the paper here.

QCEA would love to hear your thoughts, conclusions and feedback on the issues explored in the paper. You can send your discussion feedback to

About Rachel Tansey

Rachel was a QCEA Programme Assistant on Sustainable Energy Security between November 2010 and November 2011.

One comment

  1. Sustainable Growth or Growth vs. Sustainability is now available on the One Planet Economy Network (OPEN:EU) – take a look

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