In Pursuit of Sustainable Prosperity: Striking a Balance approach between Growth and Quality of life in Bonaire


Almost every week you can read in the local press about more tourists, more inhabitants, more flight movements, more permits, growing, growing, growing…

The prevailing narrative suggest that this continuous growth brings prosperity and well-being to our island. However, this assumption is far from accurate. If we consider the cost of diminishing tranquility, nature, and fresh air, it becomes evident that the construction of houses, resorts, hotels and roads actually hampers our prosperity. Each new development project further exacerbates the scarcity of these resources, which, according to the economic concept of scarcity, has a negative impact on our well-being.

Even the notion of ‘green growth’ is nothing more than a new revenue model. Advocates of green growth argue that it is possible to a decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, suggesting that we can achieve economic growth while emitting fewer pollutants. However, since the signing of the Kyoto treaty in 1997, the adoption of green growth thinking has resulted in global annual greenhouse gas emissions now being 60% higher than in 1997.

It is important to acknowledge that nothing in the world can grow infinitely, including our economy. Classical economists never emphasized singularly on “growth”. For them it is about progress, and that is a much broader concept than just growth. Those who reduce progress to growth ignore the meaning of scarcity in the economy.

True scarcity lies in the intangible treasures that money cannot buy. It is disheartening to realize that despite all the wealth we accumulate, we cannot reclaim what has been lost. An hour of silence, a breathtaking starry sky, a thriving coral reef, a pristine dry tropical forest, untouched mangrove and unspoiled open spaces cannot be purchased. Regrettably, these are the very things our hearts will long for when it is too late.

While it is essential for people to have places to live and thrive, we should reconsider our approach to urban expansion into nature. Instead of continuing to expand in nature, we ought to look better at densification of housing in urban areas or adjacent to urban areas. This way, we can leverage existing infrastructure, making construction projects not only cheaper but also quicker to realize.

Why do we cling to the belief in unlimited growth and material consumption as the sole measure of progress? It is time to embrace a new approach, one where sustainable prosperity takes center stage.

Rather than pursuing growth at all costs, we should strive to outgrow our current mindset. Degrowthers advocate for an economy that ensures everyone has the prospect of a good life within the limits of the planet. It is a search for a different and better society, rather than just a slightly diminished version of the current one. It is about finding ways to live on a damaged planet and actively working to restore it. (Anna Tsing)

Let’s strive for a balance between growth, quality of life and the preservation of our precious natural resources.