The most powerful number of our times

Gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations, has emerged as both the most powerful number and dominant concept in our times. However the concept of economic growth hides the poverty that is created through the destruction of nature, which in turn leads to communities lacking the capacity to provide for themselves.

GDP is based on creating an artificial and fictitious boundary, assuming that if you produce what you consume, you do not produce. In effect, “growth” measures the conversion of nature into cash.

Thus nature’s amazing cycles of renewal of water and nutrients are defined into nonproduction. When we look at the world through the lens of GDP and economic growth, the peasants of the world, who provide 72% of the food, do not produce. Women who farm or do most of the housework do not produce. A living forest (which may provide fertilizer, shade, fuel and food) does not contribute to growth, but when trees are cut down and sold as timber, we have growth. Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth, but disease creates growth through, for example, the sale of patented medicine.

– Excerpted and adapted from ‘How economic growth has become anti-life’ by Vandana Shiva, published in ‘the Guardian’.