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Redefining prosperity

Human civilization is at a juncture in history where straining certain planetary boundaries any further would lead to catastrophic consequences with limited recourse to plough back. Our relentless chase of material gains is leading to rising social inequity and declining natural capital. We urgently need to redefine our individual and collective pursuits beyond material gains and gross domestic product (GDP).

Published on 18 May 2022
Download  Download the background paper / PDF / 1 MB

Jain, A. and Chhabra, S. (2022). Redefining prosperity. Stockholm+50 background paper series. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.

As humans, we also value the quality of our social relationships, good health, civil engagement, quality of our environment and much more – not everything is necessarily correlated with economic gains. Global leaders – political, business, religious – must come together and recognize the need for redefining prosperity for economies and individuals. They must adopt a redefined prosperity agenda and employ it to instrumentally change our individual and collective priorities – such that we can prosper in a cohesive society on a thriving planet. 

Beyond a point, the relentless chase of material gains, wealth and economic growth is not improving human well-being and satisfaction with life. However, the chase is leading to rising social inequity and rapidly declining natural capital, threatening long-term human existence on the planet. As humans, we chase what we set as our goals. Redefining the goals for the individual and nation is important to reorient what we value and pursue. 

At the national level, economic growth measured through GDP is the key goal that countries currently pursue. However, GDP ignores various determinants of prosperity, such as the quality of social relationships, financial security and personal safety, health and longevity. Moreover, it does not recognize the inequality among populations and fails to account for the depletion of natural, human and social capital on which the country’s overall economic activity depends. 

It is urgent because the planet is reaching and breaching its physical limits – our current development paradigm cannot sustain itself.

This paper is part of a series that supports the Stockholm+50: Unlocking a better future report.


Download the background paper / PDF / 1 MB

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