We need a new economic paradigm | Finding Solutions | 2012 | Fall | Publications | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: We need a new economic paradigm

I'm not an economist, which is why I'm happy to have teamed up recently with former CIBC World Markets chief economist Jeff Rubin on a tour for his new book, The End of Growth, and mine, Everything Under the Sun. Rubin and I come at issues from a different perspective — I like to say my background is in real science while his is in the "dismal" science — but we agree on where Canada and the world need to be headed.

We both know that people can't keep burning through finite resources faster than the Earth's ability to replenish them without suffering consequences. If our recently devised economic system endangers the air, water, land and biodiversity that we rely on for our health and survival, we must come up with something better.

We've measured our well-being by tracking gross domestic product since the mid-1940s. But spending money on things that anyone would see as negative, or even horrendous — including oil-spill clean-ups, car accidents and products that we discard and replace every year — contributes to positive GDP growth. It's time to come up with a new measuring stick.

Many people, from world leaders to economists to environmentalists, realize that the endless-growth model no longer makes sense. More than 30 years ago, the King of Bhutan stated that gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product. We need a development paradigm that takes into account well-being and happiness, and that accounts for nature's services. After all, what good are a growing economy and increasing consumption—and their environmental and social consequences—when people are not healthy and happy and when we destroy the things that keep us alive and well?

At the David Suzuki Foundation, we're working on ways to make the needed changes in a positive and constructive way¬≠ — through science and research, education, discussion and cooperation. The book tour was mine and Rubin's, but it was in keeping with the Foundation's vision of working with a range of people who offer new perspectives — including banking-industry chief economists! Above all, your many contributions are crucial to our success. Thank you.

By David Suzuki.