UCL The Bartlett’s first ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) starts on 20 November. “Global Prosperity Beyond GDP” explores the need for a post-GDP approach to economies.
By Patrick Vickers, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity
‘Global Prosperity Beyond GDP’ is a free online course, led by Professor Henrietta Moore and featuring other experts in prosperity and New Economics such as Tim Jackson, Kate Raworth, and others. It examines the problems with our current economic mind-set, and sets out a different approach, which focusses on inclusive, sustainable prosperity as opposed to growth as the model for progress.
Why is now the time to ask these questions?
UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy shows that UCL can use its unique position and reach to tackle global challenges, and try and build a better future. But part of “co-creating wise solutions to enduring and emerging global problems and Grand Challenges” must also be ensuring that the very way we think about economics and conceptualise economic success is leading us to a good future.
Economic growth – quantified by rising Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – has been the main guide for our governments since its inception in the 1930s. But with the challenges we face today, is it still the right tool to guide us towards a prosperous future? Is it putting us on the path to success?
As we look ahead at the next several decades, we should be under no illusion that that there is a crucial period for humanity ahead – possibly the most crucial. This may sound hyperbolic, but consider these two facts:
- The population is set to hit 10 billion by 2050 – That’s over a 40% rise on the current population and means a massive increase in demand on resources.
- To meet the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement and stay within 1.5°C, the global economy needs to be carbon neutral by 2050 – This is not a baseless target – it exists because further warming would compromise natural stores of greenhouse gasses, and set global warming spiralling out of control, and ending benevolent climate that has made modern life possible.
In this context, it’s clear that the main challenge of the 21st century is meeting the needs for all within the means of the planet.
Ironically, the economic logic that created the unfathomable jumps in standard of living for most of humanity in the last couple of centuries will prevent future generations from flourishing if it is not adapted. Expansion and growth for the sake of it can no longer be the main target for countries.
We now know that we are in the Anthropocene. That means that the economic decisions we make today determine what life will be like hundreds of years down the line. Huge responsibility to think conscientiously about the economic mind-set we have so far relied on.
Our old methods of economic guidance need to be re-examined. GDP was first created to help measure the recovery of the economy from the Great Depression. It was kept because it was a useful war-time tool for measuring the capabilities of the economy. In short, it reflected the challenges of the early 20th century. But if we are going to meet the challenge of the 21st century, we may need to think differently.
Global Prosperity Beyond GDP does this, proposing new, prosperity-based measures, and shows how people are already making a start in changing out economic activity for the better.
Image credit: Lensational