[BLOG] Are you ready to change the game?

By Luis Alvarado

twitter  @LuisAlvaradoMa

This week, on 1 August, we were told that we have reached our planet’s limit. Together, our demand and appetite for more and more resources has meant that we’ve consumed more than our planet can produce. One entire year’s worth of resources, gone in just 7 months. 

You might be forgiven for asking then, what on Earth (literally) is going on??

The Earth going up in smoke with a question mark

Open up the news on your phone. Turn on the TV. Chances are you will see at least one news article or story attempting to analyse the latest graphs and numbers on how the economy is doing. If GDP is growing and the economy is booming again, we’re looking into a bright future! News like this makes us feel good. After all, growth is good, right?

Except, not everyone is feeling the benefit. For a lot of people, especially young generations, something doesn’t seem to be matching up between the rate of GDP growth and our wellbeing. Despite being on the road to recovery, youth unemployment is spiraling and working conditions deteriorated. We know that inequalities in our societies are widening , we’re shocked by images of mountains of plastic rising up in the sky and clogging up our oceans. To top it all, our democratic institutions seem increasingly unfit to deal with these problems. 

So who actually wins from a ‘booming economy’ – and who loses?

The use of GDP as an indicator rests upon the unwritten rule that consuming more will make us happier. But is that true? Up to a certain point, yes. Rich people are happier than poorer people on average, and richer countries are happier than poorer countries. But in rich countries, we are now actually observing the reverse pattern such as in Belgium where GDP is rising while wellbeing (welzijn) is on the decline. 

Chart showing rate of wellbeing vs GDP in Belgium

The thing is, in the numbers game, GDP doesn’t differentiate between good and bad. For example, if there’s an oil spill with horrific environmental consequences, GDP will increase because experts using expensive technology will have to clean up the mess. 

When you think about it, it’s no wonder that the way our world works, well, just isn’t working for everyone.

Maybe instead of putting so much focus on economic growth and measuring wealth, we can find other indicators that would give a more accurate picture of our lives and wellbeing. Maybe, it’s time to change the rules of the game.

What we need is a new vision, a new target to aim for. The European Youth Forum’s Youth Progress Index is already one such framework that puts a different perspective on how to measure young people’s quality of life around the world. Rather than using economic indicators, the Youth Progress Index aims to answer questions like: are young people able to exercise their socioeconomic and political rights? Do they live in a community where they feel included and not discriminated against? Do they have sufficient food to eat? Do they have access to housing? In other words, the Index measures factors that matter to and can impact the daily lives of young people.

We’re tired of hearing that if we stick to the rules, play the game and work hard enough then we will win. For our sake and the sake of future generations to come, we need to rethink how we want our societies to be shaped, what values we want to promote and how our economies can ensure the wellbeing of both people and the planet.

As we found out this week, we’re already living on borrowed time.

We are now at a crossroads. Never in human history has a generation faced an existential question on this scale. We are the first. If we are not to be the last, we must throw off our reserve, our fear, our old logics and our broken stories. It is our collective responsibility to change the rules for a sustainable future!


This article is part of a series on the some of the things that need to change for a sustainable future and the role of young people in the process. Follow #ChangetheGame! 

Also read our other blogs:

Why we need to care about Sustainable Development

Not another “AAAH! Robots are stealing our jobs!!!” article

It's an Unequal World. But does it need to be?

Life in plastic - is it really so fantastic?


About Luis Alvarado, President of the European Youth Forum

Originally from the Canary Islands (Spain), Luis became President of the European Youth Forum on 1st January 2017. After having studied under Spanish, British, French and Belgium educational systems, Luis is a true European by heart. He holds a Master European Political & Public Administration Studies by the College of Europe in Bruges and undergoes Executive Education at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE).

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