The debate on growth versus environment, including the more recent literature on sustainable development, is systematically evaluated in a stylized framework. Diffent perspectives on the conflict and relation between the economy, growth and the natural environment, have created a situation where people do not talk the same language. A conceptual framework is developed which allows to explain main diffences between alternative perspectives. Five categories are distinguished, labelled as: "the immaterialist", "the pessimist", "the technocrat", "carpe diem" and "the optimist". Both the conceptual framework and a set of characteristics (time horizon, ideology, prediction and policy implication) are used to compare these perspectives. Primarily the choice of a time horizon and the subjective evaluation of technical potential, the flexibility of social preferences and institutions, and the stability and resilience of natural systems, explain differences between the perspectives. Such a systematic confrontation is hoped to contribute to more consensus and understanding between supporters of alternative perspectives.
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series
Tinbergen Institute

van den Bergh, J.C.J.M, & de Mooij, R.A. (1997). An Assessment of the Growth Debate: A Comparison of Perspectives (No. TI 97-096/3). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series. Retrieved from