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Tim Jackson Prosperity without Growth? The transition to a sustainable economy. A major report from the United Kingdon Sustainable Development Commission.
Peter Victor Managing without Growth, slower by design, not disaster, is a late 2008 book by a Canadian ecological economist.
Thomas Friedman " . . the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically ."
Herman Daly a" . . a steady state – a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth."
NEW Susan Arterian Chang "a number of countries appear to be moving toward a steady state without making it an explicit policy goal."
Chip Ward " . . enormous amounts of energy are released in the collapse phase of an adaptive cycle . ."
Tom Horton "By an end to growth we do not mean an end to capitalism . . . "
John Coulter "The word we should be grasping for is humility."
William Greider "Can we envision an economy designed to serve the society, rather than the other way around?"
Benjamin Barber "Yet it is precisely in confronting the paradox of consumerism that the struggle for capitalism's soul needs to be waged.”
Related web sites
NEW The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study TEEB
IntoductionRecovery from our deep economic and financial crisis is an opportunity to go beyond the dilemma of an economic systems that ignores earth's natural limits to growth. However, neither our leadership nor the mainstream media give us a coherent and feasible vision of what the economy will be like when we’ve “recovered”. They betray no understanding that the global economic and financial crisis is closely linked to the crisis of ecological destruction. The basic failure of most economists to account for the value and the limits of the natural world is intertwined with several decades of financial bubbles based on fictional values and disconnected from the economy of real goods and services. Few are willing to consider that limiting population to the actual capacity of the earth is an acceptable theme for discussion.
Many policy makers and commentators appear to believe we will recover to a more subdued version of the last decades, with continuous growth of the population of consumers. This is both morally undesirable and physically impossible. Our task is to design a recovery into a new global, national, and regional economy, a sustainable economy.
This web page gathers quotes from and links to articles and reports analyzing the common roots of the natural and financial/economic crisis and asking “to what economy do we recover?” For decades, some economists, such as Herman Daly, have been describing a truly sustainable economy, capable of operating within the earth’s natural limits. At last, a mainstream columnist, the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, is reflecting this understanding of natural limits and an agency of the United Kingdom government is making the case strongly for fundamental redesign.
China's quest for a Circular Economy initially set very high goals for resource efficiency, ones that could guide recovery in developed countries as well. So far these goals have disappeared from the legislation, but the basic concept remains a useful source of guidance.
See our discussion at: http://www.indigodev.com/Circular1.html
The Service Economy and the Restoration Economy are important components of a fully sustainable economy. We discuss them on these pages: Service Economy Restoration Economy
This paper from the UK Sustainable Development Commission is the most comprehensive response to the question, "recovery to what?" that we have found so far. Based upon several years of exploration by this Commission, Jackson's report is a detailed analysis of the current economic/financial crisis and a powerful argument for recovery as a transition to a sustainable economy beyond consumerism.
For a summary of the report on this site go to without growth.
For the full report:
Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth? The transition to a sustainable economy.
Written for Sustainable Development Commission, United Kingdom,
NEW Peter Victor
Peter Victor is a noted ecological economist at the University of York, Toronto. His recent book "makes three primary arguments on why rich countries should turn away from economic growth as the primary policy objective and pursue more specific objectives that enhance well-being. The author contends that continued economic growth worldwide is unrealistic due to environmental and resource constraints. If rich countries continue to push growth, poorer countries where the benefits are more evident, will lag. Rising incomes increase happiness and well-being only up to a level that has since been surpassed in rich countries. Moreover, economic growth has not brought full employment, eliminated poverty or reduced the burden of the economy on the environment."
Peter Victor, 2008, Managing without Growth, slower by design, not disaster, Edward Elgar, Publishers, Northampton, MA,
This web site has links to Dr. Victor's speeches, papers, references, and other related web sites.
The Inflection Is Near?, New York Times, March 8, 2008
"Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: 'No more.”
“We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese.
“We can’t do this anymore.”
Thomas Friedman, The Price Is Not Right, New York Times, April 1, 2009,
“Just as A.I.G. sold insurance derivatives at prices that did not reflect the real costs and the real risks of massive defaults (for which we the taxpayers ended up paying the difference), oil companies, coal companies and electric utilities today are selling energy products at prices that do not reflect the real costs to the environment and real risks of disruptive climate change (so future taxpayers will end up paying the difference).
“Whenever products are mispriced and do not reflect the real costs and risks associated with their usage, people go to excess. And that is exactly what happened in the financial marketplace and in the energy/environmental marketplace during the credit bubble.”
Another Friedman column describes “why we need a climate bailout along with our economic bailout” and considers the indicators of Mother Nature’s Dow.
Thomas Friedman, Mother Nature’s Dow, York Times, March 29, 2009
“The idea that economic growth should be constrained by the environment was too much for the World Bank in 1992, and still is today.” Now Daly is at the University of Maryland, not in the economics department but in philosophy.
Daly is part of a network of economists such as Faye Duchin, Robert Costanza, Richard B. Norgaard and many others who created the field of ecological economics: International Society of Ecological economics
Herman Daly, Special report: Economics blind spot is a disaster for the planet, New Scientist, October 15, 2008,
. . . economists have not grasped a simple fact that to scientists is obvious: the size of the Earth as a whole is fixed. Neither the surface nor the mass of the planet is growing or shrinking. The same is true for energy budgets: the amount absorbed by the Earth is equal to the amount it radiates. The overall size of the system - the amount of water, land, air, minerals and other resources present on the planet we live on - is fixed.
“The most important change on Earth in recent times has been the enormous growth of the economy, which has taken over an ever greater share of the planet's resources. In my lifetime, world population has tripled, while the numbers of livestock, cars, houses and refrigerators have increased by vastly more. In fact, our economy is now reaching the point where it is outstripping Earth's ability to sustain it. Resources are running out and waste sinks are becoming full. The remaining natural world can no longer support the existing economy, much less one that continues to expand.”
Herman Daly, The Crisis: Debt and Real Wealth, February 25, 2009, Bank Information Center,
“Growth in US real wealth is restrained by increasing scarcity of natural resources, both at the source end (oil depletion), and the sink end (absorptive capacity of the atmosphere for CO2). Further, spatial displacement of old stuff to make room for new stuff is increasingly costly as the world becomes more full, and increasing inequality of distribution of income prevents most people from buying much of the new stuff—except on credit (more debt). Marginal costs of growth now likely exceed marginal benefits, so that real physical growth makes us poorer, not richer . . . To keep up the illusion that growth is making us richer we deferred costs by issuing financial assets almost without limit, conveniently forgetting that these so-called assets are, for society as a whole, debts to be paid back out of future real growth. That future real growth is very doubtful and consequently claims on it are devalued, regardless of liquidity.”
Herman Daly, Big Idea: A Steady-State Economy,
“The closer the economy approaches the scale of the whole Earth, the more it will have to conform to the physical behavior mode of the Earth. That behavior mode is a steady state – a system that permits qualitative development but not aggregate quantitative growth. Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff). The remaining natural world is no longer able to provide the sources and sinks for the metabolic throughput necessary to sustain the existing oversized economy – much less a growing one. Economists have focused too much on the economy’s circulatory system and have neglected to study its digestive tract. Throughput growth means pushing more of the same food through an ever larger digestive tract; development means eating better food and digesting it more thoroughly. Clearly the economy must conform to the rules of a steady state – seek qualitative development, but stop aggregate quantitative growth.”
One of Herman Daly's sources is Frederick Soddy, a chemist who became an economist in the 1920s and 30s.
Eric Zencey, Mr. Soddy’s Ecological Economy, New York Times, April 12, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/opinion/12zencey.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
"In four books written from 1921 to 1934, Soddy carried on a quixotic campaign for a radical restructuring of global monetary relationships. He was roundly dismissed as a crank.
"He offered a perspective on economics rooted in physics — the laws of thermodynamics, in particular. An economy is often likened to a machine, though few economists follow the parallel to its logical conclusion: like any machine the economy must draw energy from outside itself. The first and second laws of thermodynamics forbid perpetual motion, schemes in which machines create energy out of nothing or recycle it forever. Soddy criticized the prevailing belief of the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth — a criticism echoed by his intellectual heirs in the now emergent field of ecological economics.
Murtaugh, P.A., and M.G.
Schlax. 2009. Reproduction and the carbon
legacies of individuals. Global
Environmental Change 19: 14-20.
"In discussions about climate
change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over
his or her lifetime," said Paul Murtaugh, an OSU professor of
statistics. "Those are important
issues and it's essential that they should be considered. But an added
challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing
global consumption of resources."
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