Sustainable Wellbeing & Its Politics

Promoting the wellbeing of current and future generations equally – i.e. sustainability – seems an obvious organising principle for policy. However, it can sound radical to assert this because we’re so fixated on material growth. What if we shift our focus from material growth to wellbeing growth? After all, isn’t wellbeing growth what we really want – and material growth just a proxy for that?

Such a switch makes net zero both much more plausible and much more desirable: we could achieve net zero in the next decade with large wellbeing increases — and do so much more easily than with average economic growth (which probably wouldn’t contribute much to wellbeing!).

Finally, sustainability and wellbeing can stop being separate reformist additions to growth and instead replace it, altogether. Now, that would be a truly new green deal.

But how do we actually achieve such a shift and what does it look like? We explore political challenges underlying sustainable well-being and outline an emerging vision and movement strategy.

  • The Politics of Sustainable Wellbeing: A Primer
    Sustainable well-being (SWB) ─ the notion that wellbeing is our top priority and future generations’ wellbeing should be as good or better than ours ─ is an obvious organising principle for our society. However, the climate action/sustainability and wellbeing movements do converge on this message. On the whole, climate debate does not center discussion of […]
  • Conservative Planning for Social Well-being
    True conservatism involves planning for storms on the horizon. The conservative assumptions required of financial planners allow them to help plan for clients’ financial welfare in all reasonably forseeable scanarios. This means being pessimistic about how rosy the future will be. Yet a different and perhaps unfortunate use of the term “conservative” prevails in climate […]
  • The Case for a Sustainable Wellbeing Innovation Fund
    This report was written in the final portion of Life Itself’s first internal Hack Day(s), where we spent 48 hours discussing and developing our ideas around Sustainable Wellbeing. My contribution to this enterprise has focused on how the principle of sustainable wellbeing could be advanced through economic innovation systems. Given it was written in a […]
  • Life Itself Conversations: Sustainable Wellbeing
    Sustainable wellbeing is an obvious organising principle for society: that we should live in a way that enables future generations to enjoy being alive as much as us (or more). Yet this ethos is not truly at the heart of either the environmental movement or the well-being movement – or society as a whole. Why […]
  • Wellbeing and a Moderate Climate Movement
    This post summarises the second session of the Wiser Policy Forum, a space to bring together leading experts from across the spheres of policy and civil society to explore new perspectives on traditional policy issues. We were delighted to be joined by Rupert Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia and […]