An economy is a system by which humans turn resources into goods and services. We want these goods and services because we believe they increase our quality of life. Whether they actually do this or not, we only make goods and services because we think we want them. The reason we don’t have a neon yellow nosehair trimmer and webcam is only because an insufficent segment of our population believes having one would make their lives better.
But the basis of all economies is the extraction of resources. In fact, it is the only basis possible, because all goods are made from resources and could not be made without them. Because of this, the extraction of resources becomes the key factor in how many goods an economy can produce. So, obviously, the more resources you extract the more goods you can produce and the stronger your economy is.
The only problem with this view is that it is only correct over the short-term. Any economy based on extracting resources at an unsustainable rate is a failing economy. Unsustainable resource extraction occurs when resources are removed from an environment faster than they are reproduced in that environment. The ultimate conclusion of such a scenario can only be that eventually there would no longer be sufficient resources to maintain the economy.
Any economy extracting resources unsustainably must eventually fail, and so is a failing economy. No matter how strong it may appear in the mean time. This is a simple enough idea, but the problem is that economies are subject to Prisoner’s Dilemma. If one economy extracts resources sustainably, they could theoretically survive forever. If another economy extracts resources unsustainably, then they must fail. But, such an economy would, in the short-term, out-compete a sustainable economy. Which is why most business leaders, politicians, and economists conclude that sustainability would cost them money and power. What they cannot or will not see is that unsustainability is very expensive as well, it costs security.