Gaya Herrington: “Humanity’s Soul: Life or Growth?”

February 8, 2023

(Conversation recorded on December 29th, 2022)

Show Summary

On this episode, Nate speaks with econometrician and sustainability researcher Gaya Herrington about her new book, Five Insights for Avoiding Global Collapse, a more in-depth and personal telling of her 2021 review of the Limits to Growth (LTG). More than 50 years after the original LTG report was released, the model trajectories remain relevant – and also controversial – as we continue to track the ‘business as usual’ scenario, which results in collapse in the ‘standard run’ of the original LTG model. Are we locked in on this path and are our growth based economic systems optimized to keep us there? Is it possible to shift our goals to a different path, away from growth, focused on the well-being of all life? Can we plan or mitigate the path to descent?

About Gaya Herrington

Gaya is a Dutch econometrician, sustainability researcher, and women’s rights activist. Gaya holds masters’ degrees in both econometrics and sustainability studies. After becoming disillusioned by initially working in the financial sector Gaya became the executive director of StoereVrouwen, a non-profit Dutch women’s movement promoting sustainable economic policies through activism. In 2014, Herrington became the Director of Sustainability Services of KPMG. Most recently, her study on the projections made in the 1972 Limits to Growth report was widely publicized internationally. She is currently Vice President Sustainability Research at Schneider Electric.

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Show Notes and Links to learn more:

PDF Transcript

00:40 – Gaya Herrington works + info

03:02Limits to Growth Report, Gaya’s update on LtG, Dennis Meadows + TGS Episode

14:10Planetary Boundaries


16:05Overshoot Date

16:40Breaking Boundaries

19:16Technology takes a long timefusion breakthrough

21:15 Donella Meadowsblack box/systems dynamics

23:55Gaya’s Book: Five Insights for Avoiding Global Collapse

25:20Homo economicus

27:58Once physcial needs are met, social needs are more about purpose and less about materials

29:20Reports studying trickle down economics and negative effects of income inequality (reduced trust in others and government, environmental effects)

30:10Thorstein Veblen, conspicuous consumption

30:58Increase in social inequality

31:10Reduced social capital

31:55 Climate action requires significant decrease in global consumption

32:55Circular economy

34:23Income inequality erodes the middle – women coming out 50/50, while men are impacted more with 30/70

38:43NOT For Sale Frankly

42:04Nate’s Paper and Video on the Superorganism

44:48How money is actually made (by banks, not the Fed)

46:25Discussions on financially valuing nature

49:09Resource scare of the 70s

53:14Club of Rome

54:07Transformational Economics Committee, EarthforAll book

55:245 leverage points in the global system

57:05The benefits of empowering women

57:25Domination vs partnership mindsets in organizing society

1:02:05Well-being economy

1:02:16Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth 

1:02:26Mariana Mazzucato

1:02:37Mission Economics

1:02:57Riane Eisler

1:06:39New Zealand government well being principles

1:06:54Bhutan’s interest in well-being governments


1:11:55 More environmentally conscious companies have been shown to perform better

1:12:33Europe’s regulations moving towards circularity

1:24:45Why do humans innovate


Teaser Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: building resilient societies, limits to growth, Limits to Growth report, well-being