Nitin Dani Articles

on 31 May, 03:54

GDP Growth – Is it Really a Sign of Growth?

GDP Growth – Is it Really a Sign of Growth?

I’m often left wondering if GDP growth is really a good measure of growth of a country. It might, let’s say, be a sign of financial or economic growth – but does economic growth really imply that the population at large has gotten more well-off, more opportunities, less stressed, healthier, happier?

All around the globe we have governments pushing for GDP growth asking it’s people to buy more, consume more, and help the GDP growth of the country. People are willingly obliging. And then we have climate change summits where issues of global warming are discussed at large in fancy hotels, business class travel and fingers are pointed at our Asian economics and asking us to control our carbon emissions after they have done the deeds in the past several decades.

Somewhere between all this the very basic definition of sustainability is lost. People forget that sustainability really is about buying only as much as is ‘needed’, about need versus want, and about consuming rightly. Where buying bottled water can be replaced by carrying your own bottles of water, where eating out all the time can be replaced by cooking at home more often, where eating meat can be replaced by eating less or no meat, where driving even to a short distance can be replaced by biking or taking public transport or even just walking – among a few things.

On the lines of above we had organized an interesting expert seminar recently in Shanghai, called ‘The Future of Asian Consumption’ where we got three noted researchers and writers to present their views on different aspects of consumption, the trends, the opportunities and the impact. Our keynote speaker was Chandran Nair, author of ‘Consumptionomics – Asia’s role in reshaping capitalism and saving the planet’ – named as one of the top ten books of 2011 by ‘The Globalist’.

During the event which was more focused around China, Jason Inch, our first speaker and author of ‘China’s Economic Supertrends’ emphasized that Consumption is China’s biggest risk as well as opportunity. Our second speaker, Keagan Rubel, MD of InnoCSR and currently researching on China’s food supply, water and energy nexus had more numbers to show and spoke about consumption from a macro, country-level perspective – on China’s dependance on coal for electricity and how this dependance doesn’t largely change in the coming years. Keagan also revealed to our audience the stark reality that although we urban dwellers don’t realize it, water is in fact one of China’s biggest problems in near future.

The real revelations were really brought out to us by our third and keynote speaker, Chandran Nair – how it’s beyond our individual control to transform the world, where governments have to take tough decisions, and where ofcourse, the western model of growth and consumption cannot be held true in Asia simply because of the massive difference in population between Asia and the West.

There are a lot other interesting points in the book that make it a must-read, while Chandran’s TED talk is also something that one must see, I do believe that we as consumers will have to take certain stands on the way we approach our daily lives, on the way we do certain things.

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As Chandran rightly points out in one of his interviews last year:

“My other motive for focusing on Asia is purely down to numbers. Because, speaking frankly, It doesn’t matter what the West does as it doesn’t have the numbers to make a significant enough impact. What will make an impact is how 1.5 billion Indians decide to live or are compelled to live.”

Hence, for the time being, until our able and intelligent governments come out with better solutions, let us focus on public transports, carrying our own bottles, buying less and cooking more – not to forget, cutting down on our meat.

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