The purpose of the economy is to support our health, well being and happiness. Unless we find ways to produce substantially more happiness with far less stuff and damage, our civilization is doomed. But this is a happy task, a joint project of sustainability experts, entrepreneurs, consumers, citizens, corporate innovators, academics, legislators and policy wonks. Given that most happiness comes from relationships and most of our consumption uses stuff symbolically rather than for its intrinsic value, it won’t be hard to make 1,000 fold improvements in the ratio of happiness to stuff. These innovations will often be very popular, cost-effective and profitable. In this direction lies hope and true prosperity.
Our current economy is driven by a take, make, waste consumption cycle and as long as we stay in this paradigm the future looks bleak. However, as Gifford correctly points out, we have an incredible opportunity to expand our economy by figuring out how to increase happiness while decreasing stuff. We have an unlimited and endless supply to provide comfort, joy, laughs, smiles and support. These have no environmental or social costs.
The cycle of giving support/getting support/giving support is an endless human cycle that has been around as long as humans have walked the earth. It was the basis for tribal economies. Maybe we can learn something valuable from an economic system that has been around for 100,000 years.