If a Culture of Growth is Unsustainable, What Needs to Change?

Expert panel at AAAS Annual Meeting to address questions about economics, sustainability

Release Date: January 27, 2011 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The national mood rises and falls with the stock market. Business analysts lavish praise on companies that grow, and fret over the prospects of those that don't. The conventional view is that expansion is a sign of health.

But is that assumption compatible with the finite resources of a finite planet? And, if not, what adjustments do we need to make to ensure the health and prosperity of future generations, and not just our own?

Those are the questions that an expert panel organized by University at Buffalo Professor Emeritus Paul Reitan will address next month at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

The Feb. 19 symposium -- "If a Culture of Growth Is Unsustainable, What should Change?" -- features an interdisciplinary cast of speakers from fields that span the social and natural sciences.

The line-up includes two prominent ecological economists: Robert Costanza, director of Portland State University's Institute for Sustainable Solutions, and Herman Daly, a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland who previously worked as a senior economist for the World Bank.

Other scheduled presenters at the half-day event include Peter Raven, a botanist and environmentalist; Ward Chesworth, a co-organizer of the forum and a soil geochemist; William Rees, a population ecologist who specializes in sustainable socioeconomic development; and Eric Reitan, a moral philosopher.

"This notion that continuous future material growth is the basis for our hopes and our dreams and our aspirations, we're basing it on an impossibility," said Paul Reitan, a geologist who has studied the basis for sustainable human societies for many years. "And yet, here we are, with a culture, a world-dominant culture, that values growth without questioning it, making it a bedrock value.

"And that's why this symposium is important," Reitan continued. "We want to ask the question, to introduce this question to a serious audience through a panel of outstanding scholars."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email ub-news@buffalo.edu or visit our list of current university media contacts.