Q-and-A: Rob Dietz on boosting business without encouraging consumption

Rob Dietz will give the keynote speech at this week's ISSP conference in Chicago.

When the Portland-based International Society of Sustainability Professionals convenes Tuesday in Chicago for the group's ISSP Conference 2013, attendees can expect an earful from Rob Dietz.

Dietz, who's delivering the keynote address, wrote the book "Enough is Enough" in which he and co-author Dan O'Neill lay out a plan for, in Dietz' words, "building a prosperous yet nongrowing economy. The idea is to let go of the obsession with endless expansion and develop an economy that stabilizes at a size that's healthy for people and the planet."

We snagged a few minutes of Dietz' time for an email interview in advance of the conference. Here's what he had to say.

Sustainable Business Oregon: Talk a little about the “realistic alternatives” to impelling economic growth without encouraging excessive consumption?

Rob Dietz: The key phrase here is "realistic alternatives." In today's boardrooms, pressrooms, and classrooms, continuous economic growth, which goes hand in hand with excessive consumption, is pushed as the only alternative. This sole alternative generates profound environmental and social problems, such as climate destabilization and billions of people struggling to scrape by on limited resources.

There are two main reasons why businesses, politicians, professors, and pundits are stuck in the expansionist mindset: (1) we've built an economy that requires growth to prop up jobs, keep the financial system afloat, and fund public projects, and (2) we've become culturally attached to the notion of growth. Over the years, the concept of economic growth has become intertwined with more fundamental concepts like democracy and freedom of choice. But once we let go of the obsession with growth, a more realistic alternative for running the economy can emerge. After all, what's more realistic? Infinite growth on a finite planet, or an economy that meets our needs while achieving sustainable scale?

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