Editor's note: Special issues

Okey Chigbo, Editor of CPA Magazine, introduces the features in the January/February 2015 issue.

For much of the 5,000 years of recorded human history, most people ground out a precarious hand-to-mouth existence very much subject to the vagaries of nature. But during the 1760s, some countries in western Europe, particularly England, developed tools and methods that enabled the increasingly efficient extraction of resources from the earth, and the transformation of these resources into vast numbers of goods that served a multitude of human needs and wants.

No sensible person can deny the boon to humankind wrought by this thousand-fold expansion in productive capacity. It has created previously unimaginable wealth, health, life expectancy and comfort for an ever-growing number of people around the world. If this relatively new ability to create vast amounts of well-being were to be suddenly taken away, there is no doubt that most people in both the developed and developing parts of the world would be subject to horrendous hardships and millions would die.

But here’s the rub: does this ability to produce human goods have a dark side? Are we raping the Earth to do it? Is this constant extraction of our planet’s resources sustainable? This issue of CPA Magazine is devoted to these hard questions. As we informed readers previously, in keeping with the theme, this Sustainability Issue will be entirely digital. Furthermore, we are considering ways to reduce our environmental footprint by using thinner paper. If you would like to receive future issues of your magazine in digital format, or get it in addition to the print, the email that delivered the digital edition provides options on updating your preference. You don’t have to do anything to keep getting print issues.

In our lead feature, John Lorinc looks at the degrowth movement that seeks ways to end the emphasis on GDP-focused growth, which movement leaders believe is an inaccurate method of determining real societal progress. Some seek to replace it with a measurement called the GPI, or genuine progress indicator. Lorinc writes: "The GPI is a bundle of indices that track a range of environmental metrics, as well as a more nuanced benchmark for economic growth that seeks to take into account factors such as income inequality, underemployment, consumption levels and capital investment." See The End of Growth.

In Bright Future, Steve Brearton presents eight innovations that will make the planet more sustainable. For example, biomining desalinates ocean water by mining it — through a reverse osmosis process and the addition of metabolizing bacteria — for valuable minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. The removal process leaves pure drinking water as well as potential revenue from the minerals. Other features include For Good Measure, which shows how CPAs use their skills to drive sustainability; Conscientious Investors, which shows how to invest in sustainable businesses; and What’s the Fracking Problem? which revisits the issue.