60-Second Science

Nobel Laureate: Examine Alternatives to GDP

Nobel laureate John Sulston posited at the AAAS meeting that it may be time to look for alternatives to GDP as measures of well-being. Steve Mirsky reports

“I’m pleased that some economists and sociologists are beginning to talk about, for example, alternative measures of human well-being—alternative that is to GDP, on which the world runs.”

So said John Sulston at the AAAS meeting in Washington on February 20th. He won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2002. He talked about connections among population, the environment and economics.

“We know that our current system of economics are incomplete. And so we have for example, when we’re considering food, we have huge wastage. An awful lot of food is thrown away. This you can call a spillover. It doesn’t sort of enter into our economic system because it’s a consequence of running things in a highly competitive way: the free market, global pricing and so on. These things lead to spillovers, which is the wastage of food.

"Now, you can take the view that this doesn’t matter, and that’s what we’ve done in the past, just as we’ve been energy profligate we’ve been food profligate. It does matter if we’re coming up to the limit and we have to calculate how we’re going to stop people starving or indeed give them a better life.”

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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