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Technical Report

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Sustainability, Sustainability -- Economic aspects, Sustainable development, Economic development -- Environmental aspects, Environmental policy


This report is a synthesis of ideas about what this new economy-in-society-innature could look like and how we might get there. Most of the ideas presented here are not new. The coauthors of this report have published them in various forms over the last several decades, and many others have expressed similar ideas in venues too numerous to mention. What is new is the timing and the situation. The time has come when we must make a transition. We have no choice. Our present path is clearly unsustainable. As Paul Raskin has said, "Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is business as usual that is the utopian fantasy; forging a new vision is the pragmatic necessity" [10]. But we do have a choice about how to make the transition and what the new state of the world will be. We can engage in a global dialogue to envision "the future we want," the theme of Rio+20, and then devise an adaptive strategy to get us there, or we can allow the current system to collapse and rebuild from a much worse starting point. We obviously argue for the former strategy. In this report, we discuss the need to focus more directly on the goal of sustainable human well-being rather than merely GDP growth. This includes protecting and restoring nature, achieving social and intergenerational fairness (including poverty alleviation), stabilizing population, and recognizing the significant nonmarket contributions to human well-being from natural and social capital. To do this, we need to develop better measures of progress that go well beyond GDP and begin to measure human well-being and its sustainability more directly.


This study is part of the Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (SD21) project. The project is implemented by the Division for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, contract number 20465. Support from the European Commission is gratefully acknowledged. This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

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