New metrics to assess societal well-being

New metrics to assess societal well-being

Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, Professor at UI’s Faculty of Earth Sciences and Research Scientist at the Institute for Sustainable Studies is co- author in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. Professor Ragnarsdóttir is a member of the Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity (ASAP) that has been working on a new vision for the future and suggests that it is time to leave GDP behind. Robert Costanza, who leads the ASAP alliance, and co-authors, claim that gross domestic product is a misleading measure of national success. 
 
Gross domestic product (GDP) is a poor way to assess societal well-being. Pollution, crime, environmental destruction and inequality often accompany booming economic growth and leave people less well-off overall. GDP also blinds developing countries to more-sustainable models of development. The time has come for all countries to embrace new metrics, urge Robert Costanza and co-authors in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. 
 
More than a dozen alternative measures of progress have been developed, they explain. Some adjust economic measures for factors such as household work, income distribution, pollution and the depletion of natural capital; others rely on surveys of life satisfaction; still others combine indicators of health, income, living conditions and more variables. ASAP worked with the Bhutan government where citizens’ well-being has measured using gross national happiness since 2008.
 
Creating a successor to GDP requires a sustained, trans-disciplinary effort to integrate metrics and build consensus, Costanza and colleagues write. They call for work that is already under way on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to be used in helping the global community to identify and adopt better measures of what makes life worthwhile. Failing to do so, they say, will “condone growing inequality and the continued destruction of the natural capital on which all life on the planet depends”. 
 
 
 
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