Rich Burkmar

An economically curious ecologist

There is scientific consensus that humanity is currently operating beyond the safe operating limits of the Earth. The addiction of advanced economies to economic growth is largely responsible for this.

A safe operating space for humanity after Rockström, J. et al. (2009).1Rockström, J. et al. (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475.  The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded.

“I’m not an economist.” – David Attenborough

“The economy is too important to be left to the economists.” – Yanis Varoufakis

“The economy is a tool of ecology, not the other way around.” – David Korten

“Even as the evidence about the relationship between economic growth and ecological breakdown continues to pile up, growthism remains entrenched. It has the staying power and ideological fervour of a religion.” – Jason Hickel

“Destroy nature and you destroy the economy.” – European Central Bank

“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”– Kenneth Boulding

“The economy is a subsystem of the biosphere, and it can’t grow forever.” – Herman Daly

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” – Gaylord Nelson

“We are using resources as if we had two planets, not one. There can be no ‘plan B’ because there is no ‘planet B’.” – Ban Ki-moon

“Economic growth is not the same thing as human progress.” – John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

“Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between its costs and return, and between the short and long run. Goals for more growth should specify more growth of what and for what.” – Simon Kuznets

“GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” – Robert Kennedy

“The cost of economic growth is the depletion of natural capital.” – Herman Daly

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“We cannot save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.” – Greta Thunberg


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    Rockström, J. et al. (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475.