Economic growth is inconsistent with sustainable development when it results in the net reduction of the portfolio of assets which includes: natural assets, comprising resource assets (biological resources, agricultural land, geological resources) and environmental assets (ecological processes and biological diversity, including species and places that are valued aesthetically or for their own sake); manufactured assets (technology, buildings, equipment, infrastructure); and human assets (knowledge, skills).
Economic development is unsustainable when it increases vulnerability to crises. For example: a drought may force farmers to slaughter animals needed to sustain production in future years; a drop in prices may cause farmers or other producers to over-exploit natural resources to maintain incomes.
The annual increase in industrial production in 1989 was as large as that of Europe's total production in the 1930s. A global economy growing at 2-3% per year implies a quadrupling of industrial output in the same period so that a fourfold increase in environmental performance is necessary just to maintain current environment impacts – which scientific evidence already indicates as portending future disasters.