The Gross National Product of an economy is often used as an indicator of the wealth of an economy, and economic growth is therefore often seen as indicating an increase in wealth. This is often the case, but there are many goods and services that are not synonomous with increasing wealth, and economic growth can be present in an economy even though a large amount of destruction is taking place and wealth is decreasing - a prime example of this is some wars.
Explaining economic growth is one of the central questions in economics. Without economic growth automation since the industrial revolution would have resulted in a constantly shrinking workforce. The Luddites would have been right, but economic growth has allowed consumption to almost keep-up with the increased output of full-employment while automation is improving labor productivity.
Growth in output can be divided into two major categories: growth through increases in input (eg. capital, labor) and improvements in productivity (eg. new technologies).
Small differences in the rate of growth between two countries can lead to large cumulative differences in income over time. These differences in income can have a major impact on people's standard of living and on migration.
Analysis of economic success shows a close correlation with climate. Cold states like Sweden are much more successful than warm countries like Nigeria. In early human history, economic as well as cultural development was concentrated in warmer parts of the word, like Egypt. Today, however, cold, Northern states have much higher per capita GDP's compared to the hot, tropical states. This aspect of economics (economic geography) - and its influence on human migration and political structures - was extensively studied by Ellsworth Huntington, a professor of Economics at Yale University in the early 20th century.
The conflict between our desire for more consumer goods and the need to conserve resources can be reduced by conserveration. However, some day the Limits to Growth will make growth in resource consumption impossible.
The rate or style of economic growth may have important consequences for both "the environment" (i.e. the climate and natural capital of ecologies). Concerns about possible negative impacts of growth on the environment and on human society lead some to advocate lower levels of growth, e.g. in human development theory from which comes the idea of uneconomic growth, and Green parties which argue that economies are part of a global society and a global ecology, and cannot outstrip their natural growth without damaging them. Canadian scientist David Suzuki stated in the 1990s that ecologies can only typically grow about 1.5-3% new growth per year, and thus any requirement for agriculture or forestry to return greater than these rates, will necessarily cannibalize the natural capital of soil or forest. Some think that this argument can be applied to even developed world economies. Mainstream economists would argue that economies are driven by new technology. For instance, we have faster computer today than a year ago, but not necessarily physically more computers. That is, we may have been able to break free from physical limitations by relying on more knowledge rather than more physical production.
A concern for promoting economic growth over and above all less measurable considerations is a symptom of productivism - usually a pejorative term.