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on 5 January 2016
This is certainly a very readable and thought provoking book about balancing individual freedoms against the common (environmental) good. The author reminds us that from an environmental point of view we are presently behaving like children in a sweet shop knowing that sugar is bad but unable to resist the temptation. Somewhat scarily he advocates the need for more government in order to ensure (a) equality (a study shows a direct correlation between income inequality, characteristic of more liberal economies, and index of health and social problems), (b) manage employment (fewer working hours if necessary in order to counter the growth effect of productivity gains, moving towards low carbon labour intensive activities), and (c) all else that is needed for a rapid transition away from rampant materialistic consumerism driven by unsustainable novelty seeking and planned obsolescence (in favour of a sustainable society more focused on the common good, citing Mahatma Gandhi’s “live simply so others might simply live”). The book argues how GDP needs to be redefined in order to reflect resource depletion and carbon footprint. Studies show that as a nation’s income increases towards the current levels of developed countries there is a significant tailing-off in education level, life expectancy and happiness index. But the problem for the reader is the difficulty of imagining the precipitation of such a transition away from our planet-destroying way of life with the rapidity needed and without crashing the economy in the process. Much more ominously, though, is the fact that this book was derived from the work of the UK Sustainable Development Commission which was closed down in 2011 by the incoming “greenest government ever”.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 December 2013
For some time I've known that the world can't continue as it is. Quite simply, infinite growth in a finite world doesn't add up.

But how can we make the transition to living in a sustainable world without growth? It seems like turkeys voting for Christmas. It's not going to happen in today's society.

This book looks at what is involved, debunks the decoupling myth that says we can have growth without destroying the world, explains how the search for novelty inspires both suppliers and customers to continue the engine for growth but this must be broken and looks at how societal changes can be brought about.

Is it possible or are we doomed?

The author suggests that we might have to adapt to an economy with about a quarter of our current GDP on current carbon intensities on a world contract and converge policy. (Developed countries are forced to contract, developing countries are allowed to converge.)

How would you manage on 25% of your current income? Can you imagine a stable society in the UK at that level? To put the numbers into perspective, the Great Depression in America say the economy dip by around 30% and Greece is currently down by about 25%.

Clearly something major needs to be done to improve carbon intensity but how can we stimulate the research, development and commercialisation of the products? The market could do it if energy prices increase dramatically (either naturally or through the imposition of extremely high green taxes). But how high do they have to go to get attention to the right things (usage and efficiency) rather than the current demands for the energy companies to be forced to hold prices stable for 20 months after the next election?

Even worse, where are the scientists and engineers to develop these technologies? Our education policies have been woefully directed for decades. It's time to abolish tuition fees to encourage the best and brightest into areas that can save society.

It also says that governments will have to play a much bigger role in public ownership and investment but where is the money to come from when it already spends in the high forties percent of our GDP and is up to its neck in debt?

This book is well worth reading but it's left me with more questions than I started together with an appreciation of just how daunting a task it will be to move to a sustainable economy.

I struggle to see how it can be done in a democracy because of the unwillingness of the majority of the electorate to make the hard decisions to sacrifice prosperity in the near future to protect it in the longer term.

About my book reviews - I aim to be a tough reviewer because the main cost of a book is not the money to buy it but the time needed to read it and absorb the key messages. 4 stars means this is a good to very good book.
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on 13 February 2012
Tim Jackson's 2009 book (now in paperback) 'Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a finite planet' is a key text for efforts to shape a sustainable future, locally and globally. Jackson sets out to debunk the conventional thinking which has helped get us into the current mess and start to define a credible vision of what it means for human society to flourish in the context of ecological limits. He has particular messages for `rich' economies like the U.K. and U.S.A. which are already exhausting much more than our share of the world's natural resources.

In a persuasive and detailed analysis Jackson advances four main propositions:
§ The dominant capitalist model of the last 30 years and the ecologically illiterate economic theories on which this is based have failed.
§ Worse than this, the endless but unsustainable pursuit of economic growth is now `wired in' to our materialist culture in which consumerism is a key driver and personal status is judged by wealth and acquisition.
§ Current incrementalist myths, for example that growth and material consumption can be decoupled, don't stand up to empirical examination.
§ We need therefore both a new ecological macro-economics and new ways of defining what we value: we have no sensible option but to pursue prosperity without growth.

Borrowing both from the small-scale example of social enterprises which employ (mostly) human resources to address community needs and the inspiration of `intentional communities' like those discussed in Wheatley and Frieze's book 'Walk Out, Walk On', as well as Amartya Sen's identification of well-being in terms of our capabilities for flourishing, Jackson defines prosperity simply as a state which offers us all the ability to participate meaningfully in the life of society.

In more detail, prosperity goes beyond basic material satisfactions (still to be achieved in many `poorer' countries) to emphasise instead the quality of our lives and the health and happiness of our families; the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community; our sense of shared purpose and satisfaction at work. He also shows how well-being in this sense is more easily achieved in more equal societies.

This analysis leads on to a promising sketch of the public policies required to make the transition to a better future, in three main areas:
ü Establish clear limits to our use of non-renewable resources e.g. through caps on emissions and ecological tax reform.
ü Changing our economy through an ecological focus on low carbon and labour intensive activities and investment in `green' technologies, infrastructure and jobs.
ü Changing our society through tackling systemic inequalities, sharing out employment and reducing working hours, and building more resilient communities which promote equal citizenship and local self-sufficiency.

Within this broad vision and strategy, we can see that valuing everyone in our diverse communities for the assets they bring and welcoming their inclusion is not only morally right, it is also essential to achieving this better future for us all.
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on 18 December 2011
"What can prosperity look like in a finite world, with limited resources and a population expected to exceed 9 billion people within decades?" This is the question Tim Jackson seeks to explore in "Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet."

Tim Jackson gives an account of economic thinking in its present context, refutes arguments in favor of the status quo and provides a new sustainable economic model. Jackson explains that irreversible climate change is decades away and that an obsession with GDP growth has created a debt-fueled acceleration in spending to increase it, both by Governments trying to reach full employment and a culture of consumerism. This has produced a dilemma where continuous growth is needed to protect the same level of average incomes as population growth continues. However, this is ecologically unsustainable as "decoupling" (greater economic efficiency) will nowhere near provide the reductions in emissions needed by 2050. Jackson outlines a potential transition to a sustainable economy by establishing resource and emission limits, fixing the current economic model and changing the social logic that individuals and communities have today.

"Prosperity without Growth" provides a realistic account of climate change in the context of the world's economy current economic, ecological and financial situation. It vividly explains the self-destructive nature of politicians and economics obsession with growth in the context of impending climate change. It provides a very strong argument for current Governments to stimulate economic recovery by investing in a "Global Green New Deal." However, the realism of the book breaks down in the 2nd half when Jackson provides a way to transition to a sustainable economy.

The fundamental question economists have been trying to answer with climate change is how to do we reach an agreement among competitive economies and self-interested individuals to achieve specific outcomes? Jackson casually mentions reducing income inequality, agreeing on international emission limits and creating a completely new shift in culture with no convincing explanation as to how get key actors to implement these ideas in practice. (Hence the failures of virtually every climate summit.) Moreover, the book is too general in nature- the author's argument could have been strengthened if he could have segmented metrics and provided greater details. What percentage of growth is attributed to consumerism? What percentage attributed to necessities?

Overall, Prosperity Without Growth provides a compelling argument for a complete rethink of the economic culture that's been developed in the past two hundred years given the context of it's ecological impact. It provides a vision for what this future economic culture might look like, but doesn't provide a convincing way to reach it.
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on 4 January 2013
There are major problems with the economy, everbody knows that, but when people today think they are less happy than people thought they were in both the UK and the US 50 years ago the problems with society are not ones that can be fixed with fiscal stimulation programs. Evidence has been building for some time that suggests we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about economics. Anybody can understand that growth can't go on for ever, the planet is finite, and efficiency will run into the laws of thermodynamics eventually. Tim Jackson is one of those people who should be leading the country, because he is ahead of the game, unlike the current pack of politicians for whom politics is a game called "line your own pockets". Read this book, then follow up some of the references, there are important truths here that you need to know. The game is change or die, which side are you on?
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on 4 November 2016
I really enjoyed this, though of course it is rather utopian, does not quite understand how the human behaviour works, but it is something to work towards.
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on 25 August 2016
This is a great book, easy to read and should be required reading for everyone.
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on 28 May 2013
This is an eloquent and compassionate indictment of an economy based on constant buying of new things, for no other reason than they are new. It argues, supported by much research, that we must change the way we think about consumerism. And happily, when we do, we'll be much more content with our lives. Prosperity without growth: Does exactly what it says on the cover.
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on 21 September 2012
This book succinctly explains many of the macro economic problems (and some social problems) which we find in the UK and the wider developed world today and goes on to make some very sensible suggestions on how to address them. Sadly, it appears not to have been read by the current government or opposition, both of whom continue to believe that economic growth is essential, desireable and feasible whereas the reality is probably very different.
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on 21 April 2013
I've been worried for a long time that there seemed to be no proper academic study of an economic system without "growth" as the universal answer - even though indefinite growth is obviously a nonsense.
Here it is. Rigorous, clear, hopeful.
I gave a copy to my MP. Read and do the same.
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