Economic recovery could put us back on track for disaster

In the 1950s, economic growth became the No. 1 economic policy objective of governments, and all others, such as productivity, innovation, free trade, competitiveness, immigration, even education, became a means to that end, wrote Peter Victor, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in the Ottawa Citizen May 13.

Until a year or so ago all seemed to be going reasonably well. Then came the breakdown in the financial sector followed quickly by a recession that, through globalization, spread farther and faster than swine flu. Now governments are congratulating themselves for acting together to stimulate spending to get their economies back on course, much as British economist John Maynard Keynes might have recommended.

But times have changed since his day, wrote Victor. It is time to rethink the old idea that the solution to all our problems lies in the incessant expansion of the economy. Rich countries like Canada should explore alternatives, especially if poorer countries are to benefit from economic growth for a while in a world increasingly constrained by biophysical limits.

Some deny or simply ignore these limits and argue that economic growth in rich countries is necessary to stimulate growth in poorer ones. Others say that with “green” growth we can expand economic output as we reduce the demands we place on nature through more efficient production, better designed products, fewer goods and more services, compact urban forms, and organic agriculture.

While these measures may well help in a transition they are an unlikely prescription for the long term, wrote Victor. What is required is a radical rethinking of our economies and their relation to the natural world.

TTC outreach program helping youth in priority neighbourhoods

Renée Allen feels as though she’s finally grown up, wrote the North York Mirror May 12. Until a month ago, Allen was working temporary and part-time jobs, mostly in retail, while she studied marketing-related courses at York University. Now, the 30-year-old Jane-Finch native and York student is one month into a summer job with the Toronto Transit Commission, in a newly created position of “transit ambassador”, putting her marketing skills to work selling the TTC at events around the city.

On air

  • Trevor Farrow, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the protest on the Gardiner by members of the Tamil community on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning” May 12.
  • Carla Lipsig-Mumme, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about steelworker protests in Luxembourg on CBC Radio’s “Radio Active” and in interviews on CBC stations across Canada May 12.