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Can the economy grow forever?

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Many economists think that an eternally growing economy is necessary to keep improving people’s lives, and that if the global economy stops growing, people would fight more over the fixed amount of value that exists, rather than working to generate new value. Which raises the question: is infinite growth possible on a finite planet? Explore how economies can balance efficiency with sustainability…

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Kevin Herrmann, AIM Creative Studios
  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Storyboard Artist Kevin Herrmann
  • Animator Kevin Herrmann, Jorge Ramos, André Cunha
  • Illustrator Kevin Herrmann
  • AIM Creative Studios Producer Tiago Ribeiro, Marta dos Santos
  • Music André Aires
  • Sound Designer André Aires
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Alexandra Zubak
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Expert Consultant Jason Hickel, Ian Goldin
  • Special Thanks Anna Bruce-Lockhart, World Economic Forum
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The Limits to Growth
Core to the business-as-usual economic model is a near-obsession with the expansion of GDP. But economists have been wondering if infinite economic growth is possible on a finite planet. To dig into some of their thinking, read this article. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the origins of rethinking growth, you might want to read Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows.

Doughnut Economics
The brainchild of Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics is an alternative model to the one based on eternal economic growth. It seeks the sweet spot of meeting humanity’s collective needs without overshooting planetary boundaries. Read more about the model in this article. You’ll learn about how the global recovery from Covid could lead to a better economic model. Visual learner? Head over to this quick explainer video on Doughnut Economics.   

A Greener Global Future
A more sustainable economic model would lay the framework for a greener and more just future for generations to come. Read more about how governments can design economies that increase biodiversity, mitigate and draw down carbon emissions, and create more resilient communities, more insulated from the threats of climate change. The European Green Deal is one concrete example of such policies that seek to make society more sustainable while ensuring the health and wellbeing of its citizens. 

Decarbonizing Growth
Another concrete example of a more sustainable economic model could be a creative approach to the building sector. The construction and operation of buildings accounts for 38% of carbon emissions. Explore some of the frameworks and technologies that will accelerate the decarbonization of buildings and cities. For a more in depth look at the relationship between economic growth and decarbonization, head over to this video. The moderator and guests explore the following question: How can carbon emissions targets be achieved without compromising the global economy? In other words, they are trying to solve the green growth equation. 

Big Tech
Almost all industries are using big data, artificial intelligence, automation and the internet of things to improve their products and processes. The Big Tech companies providing these services are core to problems and solutions to some of the biggest challenges our society is grappling with. So it begs the question: Is Big Tech Took Big? Check out this video or podcast to find out more. 

Thinking Big
If you’re a big-picture thinker, and are looking for a comprehensive look at global risks and possible solutions, check out the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risk Report.

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Kevin Herrmann, AIM Creative Studios
  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Storyboard Artist Kevin Herrmann
  • Animator Kevin Herrmann, Jorge Ramos, André Cunha
  • Illustrator Kevin Herrmann
  • AIM Creative Studios Producer Tiago Ribeiro, Marta dos Santos
  • Music André Aires
  • Sound Designer André Aires
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Alexandra Zubak
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Expert Consultant Jason Hickel, Ian Goldin
  • Special Thanks Anna Bruce-Lockhart, World Economic Forum

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