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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 11, 2018

Environmental Philosophy

Philip Cafaro
Pages 21-24

Economic Growth or the Flourishing of Life
The Ethical Choice Global Climate Change Puts to Humanity in the 21st Century

The phenomenon of global warming suggests that today’s dominant economic paradigm is bumping up against physical and biological limits. As will likely become ever clearer in coming decades, endlessly growing populations, consumption and economic activity are incompatible with human happiness, the flourishing of other species, and maintaining the basic ecosystem services on which these depend. The world’s peoples need to shift to an economic paradigm focused on providing sufficient resources for a limited number of people, rather than ever more resources for ever more people. For at least 2500 years, philosophers East and West, religious and secular, have claimed that wealth is not the key to happiness and that goodness is better than greatness. This talk argues that philosophers should redouble these efforts and join environmentalists in working to convince our societies to grow up and develop nobler, less materialistic, more sustainable goals and definitions of human flourishing as the necessary and the only alternative to trying to shoehorn a few more decades of economic growth into already overstressed ecological systems.