Good news, Washington’s economy is getting stronger, at least as it’s measured by GDP. From 2002 to 2003 the state’s economy expanded by a rousing 5.1 percent. But is that really an accurate way to evaluate the health of the economy?

Unfortunately, in tandem with economic growth, reported releases of toxic chemicals from major industries also increased by 3 percent (an additional 600,000 pounds of toxics distributed around the state’s land, air, and water). The Olympianreports

There’s a lesson here, I think. Despite its omnipresence, GDP is a lousy way to measure our society, and even our economy. To quote the inimitable Alan Durning:

GDP doesn’t track how people are, but only how much they spend. GDP fails to distinguish between losses and gains, because it only adds and doesn’t subtract. Gutting ecosystems for commodities—and leaving fisheries depleted, forests cleared, or rivers dammed—shows up as a plus in the accounts. So do expensive misfortunes: whether money is spent on vacations or hospital stays, playground equipment or car wrecks, births or funerals, it’s all the same in the GDP ledger.