Past Event


Why Greater Equality is a Key to Sustainability

29 January 2015 17:00–18:30

Fulton B Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton

Reducing carbon emissions is frequently rejected because it is seen as an unwelcome belt-tightening exercise. But, by making more fundamental changes, we could improve the real quality of life in ways which would also help us achieve sustainability.

In this Sussex Development Lecture, Richard Wilkinson will start with a reminder that, after the early stages of economic growth, there is a pattern of sharply diminishing returns to well-being from rising average material standards. At the same time, the evidence on health and happiness suggests that if rich countries are to make further advances in the real quality of life, they must address people’s social needs and improve the quality of the social environment.

He will suggest how decreasing inequality might be expected to improve the quality of social relations, reduce consumerism and strengthen concern for the common good. He will end by arguing that increasing economic democracy is key both to reducing income inequality and to making further improvements in the quality of life.

About the speaker

Richard Wilkinson studied economic history at LSE before training in epidemiology. His research drew attention to widening health inequalities, and led him to ask the UK Secretary of State for Social Services to set up an “urgent government inquiry”. The result was the Black Report (1980) which stimulated research on health inequalities internationally. Since then Richard has played a formative role in international research on the social determinants of health and on the societal effects of income inequality. His books and papers have drawn attention to the tendency for societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor to have a higher prevalence of a wide range of health and social problems.

Richard is now Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School, Honorary Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at the University of York. He wrote The Spirit Level with Kate Pickett, a best seller now available in 23 languages, which won the 2011 Political Studies Association Publication of the Year Award and the 2010 Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize. He co-founded The Equality Trust (with support from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust). In 2013 Richard received Solidar’s Silver Rose Award and was named as Community Access Unlimited’s ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ Award.

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Hannah Corbett

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