World economies measure themselves by GDP (growth domestic product), but a new study believes this measuring stick to now be “woefully inadequate” given increasing pressures on the earth’s natural environment.

According to the Worldwatch Institute’s latest trend analysis in this field, human consumption has reached such a point that humanity now consumes a year’s worth of resources in less than 365 days.

The study argues that in terms of society’s well-being, conventional economics such as GDP are only really useful as a nominal indicator since they lack the intricacies and more subjective goods essential to a more encompassing and meaningful metric.

The Institute points to newer metrics such as the GPI (genuine progress indicator) which includes the economic cost of expenditures that diminish ‘community capital’ as these paint a more accurate picture of humanity’s overall welfare.

In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution stating that all countries should begin measuring happiness – taking a cue from Bhutan, which began tracking Gross National Happiness in the 1970s.

Similarly, the UN Development Programme has developed a Human Development Index as an indicator of well-being that relies primarily on health (life expectancy at birth), education (mean and expected years of schooling), and living standards (gross national income per capita on a logarithmic scale).

Maxine Perella

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