Worldwatch Report #186: Creating Sustainable Prosperity in the United States: The Need for Innovation and Leadership

Cover of Worldwatch Report Creating Sustainable Prosperity in the US

Author: Gary Gardner

ISBN: 978-0-9835437-2-5
Publication Date: September 2011
48 pages


The United States finds itself at a critical juncture, as environmental degradation and resource depletion threaten the capacity of the U.S. economy to generate wealth for the indefinite future. The choice is not between the status quo and sustainability.  The choice is whether the United States builds sustainable prosperity through prudent choices now or declines into sustained impoverishment because it failed to steward its assets when it had the choice.

In a comparative analysis of sustainability, the United States ranks barely in the top third of nations.  Despite growing awareness of the need to build a sustainable national economy, U.S. output continues to be characterized by linear flows of materials, heavy dependence on fossil fuels, disregard for renewable resources, and resource use that is strongly connected to economic growth.

Creating a sustainable U.S. economy will require a thoughtful and strategic set of national, state, and local policies that essentially remake the economic playing field under a new set of principles:

  • Renewable resources cannot be consumed faster than they are regenerated.
  • Non-renewable resources must be reused or recycled to the greatest extent possible, creating a circular economy.
  • Ongoing development should focus less on ever-higher levels of consumption and more on increased quality of life.
  • A sense of fairness, especially around wealth distribution, is needed to generate social and economic stability across society.
  • Deceleration of population growth will make the creation of a sustainable economy far easier.
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