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Transitioning to a sustainable economy

Transitioning to a sustainable economy

Ten years after the publication of the first edition (2008) of his book Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster, Professor Peter Victor published a second edition (2019) to further explain why long-term economic growth is not feasible, and why, especially in advanced economies, it is also undesirable. Simulations based on real data have been added to show that managing without growth is a better alternative.

In his book, Professor Victor challenges the priority that rich countries give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, on the disconnect between higher incomes and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet other key economic, social and environmental policy objectives.

An economist who has worked on environmental issues for over 50 years as an academic, consultant and public servant, Professor Victor was the first economist to apply the physical law of the conservation of matter to the empirical analysis of a national economy. He was one of the founders of the emerging discipline of ecological economics and was the founding member of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) first president of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE). He has served in various capacities as chair of the Greenbelt Council of Ontario, a member of the Club of Rome, and a member of Advisory Committee on Environmental Statistics for Statistics Canada, the Academic Advisory Panel of TruCost, the Board of the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Advisory Board of the New Economy Coalition.

Peter Victor and Tim Jackson working on system dynamics/low grow stock flow consistent ecological macroeconomic model for Canada (CUSP photo).

Currently, he is collaborating with University of Surrey Professor and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) Tim Jackson and working with a number of PhD students who are pursuing different aspects of the development of ecological macroeconomics towards  building empirically grounded, systems dynamics models of national economies. His work on ecological economics has been recognized with the Molson Prize in the Social Sciences by the Canada Council for the Arts in 2011, the Boulding Memorial Prize from the International Society for Ecological Economics in 2014, and his election to the Royal Society of Canada in 2015.

Professor Victor’s work on alternatives to economic growth or degrowth has been widely sought for and covered in the media. He is sought internationally to convey his substantial contribution to Canadian intellectual heritage: a well-founded challenge to a basic tenet of Western economic thinking – that growth of the economy equates to improvement of human well-being. He has demonstrated that other important factors which contribute to well-being and happiness can be achieved with little or no growth in the economy – such factors as full employment, economic stability and leisure time.

In a recent CBC article on the coronavirus lockdown, Professor Victor noted that “Things you couldn’t imagine happening are now happening.” He describes COVID-19 pandemic as a living experiment and expects that the current crisis to have a lasting impact, reminding people there is a lot more to life than the rat race. Earlier in The Agenda, he reiterated that “the global economy must operate within planetary limits to promote stability, resilience and well-being.”