So much of the analysis of how we respond to climate change assumes that economic growth and emissions reduction are compatible goals. But is this wishful thinking? To question maximizing economic growth as an organizing principle of society seems close to economic heresy.
Enter Tim Jackson, a professor of Sustainable Development and author of the book, Prosperity Without Growth. He argues it's time to re-think the very notion of growth and what it means to be genuinely prosperous.
Jackson is speaking as part of the 2010 Alfred Deakin Lecture series, "Brave New World?" Curated by Tim Flannery, the 2010 Deakins presents the climate change challenge from ten different perspectives, with a focus on ten different spheres of life.
Are we, the series asks, willing to take the hard personal, political and economic choices that will truly reduce emissions? Are we brave enough to make the changes -- in thought and deed -- that are required of us? Are we able to shape this new world, or will it shape us?
Tim Jackson is Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Research group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE). His research interests focus on understanding the social, psychological and structural dimensions of sustainable living.
Tim joined the University of Surrey in January 1995 under an EPSRC Fellowship on energy and environment, after five years as Senior Researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute. In February 2000, he was appointed Professor of Sustainable Development, the first such chair to be created in the UK. From Jan 2003 to April 2005 he held an ESRC Fellowship on the social psychology of sustainable consumption. He founded RESOLVE in May 2006 with core funding from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). RESOLVE is a novel inter-disciplinary collaboration involving around 30 researchers across four departments (CES, Psychology, Sociology, Economics) in Surrey. Its aim is to develop a robust understanding of the links between lifestyle, societal values and the environment, and to provide evidence-based advice to policy-makers seeking to influence people's lifestyles and practices.
For over twenty years, Tim has been at the forefront of research and teaching in sustainability. In 1988 he pioneered a least-cost approach to carbon abatement for Friends of the Earth. In 1996 he co-authored (with Nic Marks) the first Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare for the UK and has continued to work closely with the New Economics Foundation and others on measures of sustainable wellbeing at national and regional level. During the last decade, he has led numerous research and policy initiatives on sustainable consumption and production in the UK and abroad. From June 2004 to March 2006, he was the sole academic representative on the UK Sustainable Consumption Round Table and in 2006 published the Earthscan Reader on Sustainable Consumption. Tim led the team which developed the Surrey Environmental Lifestyle Mapping (SELMA) model used to estimate the UK's 'carbon footprint' for the Carbon Trust. He is a co-author of the WorldWatch Institute's influential State of the World 2008 on sustainable economies.
In April 2004, Tim was appointed as Economics Commissioner to the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). He contributed extensively to the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy and is now leading the SDC's Redefining Prosperity programme. He is a member of UNEP's Sustainable Lifestyles Task Force, Defra's Sustainable Consumption and Production Advisory Group, the Environment Agency's Science Advisory Panel and the Carbon Trust/BSI Technical Advisory Group on carbon labelling. He chairs the 'New Energy Solutions' Advisory Board for Danish investment company BankInvest and is associate researcher on a Templeton Foundation project on 'The Pursuit of Happiness' at Emory University, Atlanta.
In addition to his academic and policy work, Tim is an award-winning playwright with numerous BBC radio credits to his name. His environmental drama The Cry of the Bittern won a Public Awareness of Science Drama Award in 1998. His most recent play, Variations, won the 2007 Grand Prix Marulic and is longlisted for the 2008 Sony Drama award.
"There is no evidence in social psychology that we really are the narrow, materialist, selfish, individualist consumers that the economy would have us believe that we are," says Professor Tim Jackson. "We have to free our imagination."
Professor Tim Jackson discusses the role advertisers play in perpetuating consumption-based issues like climate change and in hindering the adoption of sustainable lifestyles. He says advertisers and politicos alike are responsible for what he calls the "perverseness of economics."