Monday, September 23, 2019

Redefining GDP to include more forms of progress

In Greta Thunberg's speech at U.N. Climate Session, she criticizes talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. GDP growth could be a bad thing. For many, this would be a real hard pill to swallow.

In my own opinion, I am not a big fan of increasing wealth and economic growth, but I am a fan of progress. There are many forms of progress that are not measured by traditional measures of GDP. Human rights, health, more free time, meaningful conversations, friendships less burden of work; even erotic pleasure; to name a few. This calls for major changes in culture and lifestyles all over the world.

People tend to be more comfortable with technological progress and technological progress is a great thing. That can happen also.

On the subject of technology, much of that progress is not measured in our faulty figures for GDP. The tiny and inexpensive Smartphone offers us so much yet it's monetary price adds very little to GDP compared to the multi million dollar computer I saw in the mid 1970's when I toured the computer center at Washington State University. That computer boosted 2.5 megabytes of RAM memory which was significant back then. Todays, far more features of the Smartphone hardly tip the scales in people's perception of their wealth.

Advanced technology is one road to less energy use. Think LED lights.

We are living in a time of great abundance, yet our economic situation puts many folks only a paycheck or two out of poverty. Maybe we can't grow our way to a sense of fulfillment, security and peace of mind. That shift in thinking is an economic challenge in the West.

Meanwhile; especially in what's called the Third World, the traditional measure of GDP growth is possibly even more sought after. As world population grows and more people rise out of poverty, there is continued pressure to provide more jobs, homes, cars and so forth.

Immigration adds some population growth in the west also driving some of this pressure here.

I think we have to redefine what progress means. Think less in terms of traditional wealth and more in terms of other qualities in life.

There is some anger in her statements. I hope this doesn't provoke a war between the generations.

Here's another item in the news.

Climate change fight should be 'sexy' and 'fun', Japan's new environment minister says.

Reminds me of some of my thinking in relation to World Naked Bike Ride. Think about things that motivate people rather than just sacrifice, doom and gloom.

Japan, itself, comes under criticism as new coal plants are under construction there. Problem is that after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, quite a few nuclear plants have been shut down so much of Japan's power needs shifts back to fossil fuel sources.

This environment minister, in the link above, has encouraged the shutdown of nuclear plants as well. Another hard pill to swallow; especially thinking of the islands of Japan having little land area for solar and wind farms.

If Japan can try and go green, even without nuclear, we ought to be able to also, here in USA, with so much of our land area; including our desert lands. Still, it's a challenge.

Here in Whatcom County, there is still a moratorium against wind power in most rural areas of the county. This due, in part, to the property owners, "not in my backyard" issue and also due to the worry about wind farms effect on bats as well as birds; especially bats. Eastern Washington has lots of big wind farms now; like around Ellensburg.

Building solar panels can create economic activity and traditional forms of wealth, but making these changes also can create economic disruption; for instance carbon taxes. Some people gain while others loose in the short run at least. We need lots of new thinking about the economy.