Transcript The steady-state economy and economic degrowth
The steady-state economy and economic degrowth
: the orphan of environmental policy Blake Alcott PhD candidate in ecological economics [email protected] www.blakealcott.org
AGM, Population Matters London, 15 October 2011
square metres? planning
“The National Trust believes in growth as we all do.”
NT Dir Gen Fiona Reynolds & Dir of Conservation Peter Nixon in identical words George Monbiot (Guardian): “No one in their right mind disputes that England needs
, especially affordable homes. No one disputes that the planning system should deliver them.” economic growth is axiomatically good
for good reason
the growth coalition
Tories Lib Dems Labour & everybody
* “There is panic about growth. When we panic, we revert to type, and our true nature comes out.”
Andy Atkins, Dir of FoE UK
proof: usually-critical NT & Monbiot – who by the way also categorically believes that population is not part of environmental problems Recessionology in the Guardian alone: CBI Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors agreement between Terry Duddy (Home Retail Group) & Simon Jenkins (NT Chairman – present planning doesn’t “impede growth”) : give money to consumers, not the banks Jonathan Freedland – “There was a growth-shaped hole in this speech... Cameron offered no plan to get Britain working again” & Jackie Ashley – “strategy for growth”, “pro-growth opposition”, supports planning reform for growth * Ed Miliband > Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth
and Inclusive Development”
(Commission on Growth and Development) Lord Browne, Robert Solow...
Green New Deal Group Larry Elliott (Guardian), Caroline Lucas (GP), Andrew Simms (nef), Tony Juniper (ex-FoE)] Convenor Colin Hines: (Guardian Letter): “increase economic activity”, “tackle this demand deficit”, “kickstart the economy” the only thing NOT on the Mainstream Menu is
No, Nil, Zero, No Growth
like atheism in the 18 th century OLD socialist HOPE: Guardian Letter 14 Sept: “No one has yet identified any growth potential that might solve the social problems arising from the increasing disparity in incomes.”
• • • We’re using up resources faster than nature replenishes them.
– – fossil fuels , copper ..... non-renewables
groundwater , trees , fish .... renewables We’re putting waste into nature, damaging health, climate and other species faster than...
– heavy metals , unsightly plastics , GHGs ....
We’re squeezing more food out of the earth than it provides long-run.
– soil degradation , soil erosion ....
‘development’ logic = growth logic
logical assertions: nothing can grow forever; no supply is unlimited
not built-up political ‘planning’ fight
developer, maybe a ‘sustainable’ one OK
limits to growth after all?
Let’s be optimistic.
new deposits of metals, fossil fuels
more efficient use
of limited resources nuclear fusion will desalinate water!
for edible plants
• • • • Each further gram of copper mined requires more energy than the one before.
Tony Hayward: Kurdistan may be “the last big on shore ‘easy’ oil province available for exploration by private companies anywhere in the world.” Lord Browne’s
gas shale fracking
near Blackpool; Alberta tar sands: ratio of energy
is on average declining.
to energy best is Saudi oil 10:1
# litres drawn or # cows on alp
for centuries; these are problems of the
Many watersheds using
are in steady-state.
Others must degrow: Ebro, Colorado, Jordan, North China “World’s declining rivers put 5 billion people at risk.” (Nature)
What should remain steady in a ‘steady-state’ economy?
1) the amount of natural resources we yearly take from nature and 2) the amount of waste we put back into it i.e., inputs into production and outputs from consumption, in biophysical terms, whose sum is called throughput steady input amounts of water, biomass, animals; steady output amounts ofgases, unhealthy water, degraded soil...
and: metals, oil, coal, uranium... ooops!
“It is just as stupid to sit freezing on a finite pile of coal as it is to use it all up.” THE NON-RENEWABLES PARADOX
throughput = input + output
solar energy = ecological economics planetary resources global ecosystem high-grade fossil energy materials, minerals ‘waste’ : iron filings, tread-out steps, eroded paint, dead organisms, unfashionable clothes economic subsystem low-grade energy planetary sinks wastes, pollution heat
(The Limits to Growth: 30-Year Update)
SSE policy recommendations
Stabilise population Cap-auction-trade basic resources Eco-tax reform No fractional reserve banking Reform national accounts (replace GDP) main tool to shrink to an SSE: physically-defined
on resources: litres of fossil fuel , number of fish , litres of aquifer water .
(CASSE : Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy)
population doesn’t matter
• • • • • reducing population doesn’t help consumption per person can simply go up, and we’re back where we started nevertheless, as David Attenborough says, all problems would be simpler to solve if...
and rising consumption for the poor is good, so lower population is good, but not necessarily for the environment Mainly, caps on resource use are just too brutal.
We must protect ourselves by limiting our numbers.
history: the cowboy economy
• • • • Kenneth Boulding, 1966 – the cowboy economy vs
– “What has posterity ever done for me?” Herman Daly, from 1968 on – ‘sustainable growth’ an oxymoron – we must live within nature’s limits Limits to Growth, 1972 (Club of Rome) 1988: International Society for Ecological Economics ISEE
Adam Smith wrote: (1776) The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of society; the stationary is dull; the declining melancholy.
John Stuart Mill answered: (1871) There is room in the world for a great increase of population, but... I confess I see very little reason for desiring it.
[wilderness, solitude, beauty]
If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger but not a better or happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.
degrowth since 2004 décroissance, degrowth
If we are using up resources faster than they’re replenished, or polluting faster than nature can clean things up, ‘the economy’ – our ecological ‘footprint’ – is too big: It must shrink, or ‘degrow’
What about jobs?
What about material prosperity?
What about poverty alleviation?
Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam: “Fundamentally, you need two things for dealing with population – one is girls’ education, which gives them power, confidence and knowledge, and then there is easy access to contraception. Most women do not want more than about three to five children – that is from surveys right across the world.” G2 2 Sept George Monbiot: “Population growth is not [an environmental] problem.” Fred Pearce, Lynsey Hanley VHEMT.org “May we live long and die out.” “Our movement hasn’t really caught on. People are breeding like there’s no tomorrow.” > Q & A
• • • • • • ‘ 2000 Watt Society’, Zürich - 2000J/per second/person) If the population goes up 10%, the goal must be tightened to 1800 W/person.
playing lower consumption off against lower population won’t do: ‘walk and chew gum at the same time’ having a baby measure resources, decide on desired quality of life human feedlot vs. quality of life women’s health and rights and education: good per se mortality declining as well as fertility (complacency)
quotas – e.g. one child per person is this something the majority can legitimately decide?
is reproductive freedom absolute, not balanced by reproductive responsibility?
PM opposes ‘coercive’ policies, but every law is coercive subsidies – ‘family-friendly’ tax deductions per dependent child child allowances one-off birth premiums cheaper housing, child-care, etc.
tax child-bearing, pay for vasectomies, ban sperm banks?
How serious are environmental and life-quality problems?
• Kenneth Boulding, 1966.
• • • • ‘ The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth’ –
"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." Herman Daly & Joshua Farley, 2004.
Economics. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
the journal Ecological Economics CASSE www.steadystate.org
THANK YOU. COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS?
[email protected] www.blakealcott.org
the ‘growth’ concept
• • • • • • • • ‘steady-state’ also = steady rate of growth !
till 1970: plain ol’ economic growth 1972: limits to growth, zero growth 1973: sustainable growth 1974: sustainable quantitative growth: that’s an oxymoron 1977: OK then, qualitative growth 1984: But GDP & resource use grow in lock-step 1989: Let’s decouple growth and environmental damage! 1998-2010: Sorry, it hasn’t happened.
(no, of course not growth!) 1980, 1987
Index: 1950 = 100 400 300 total production 200 population 100 grain per person 0 1950 1970 1990 2010 difference between total & per person
The Limits to Growth: 30-Year Update
• • Daly Beyond Growth p 31. Growth … refers to an increase in the physical scale of the matter/energy throughput that sustains the economic activities of production and consumption of commodities. Daly & Farley sustains it.” p 440 “The SSE is the economy viewed as a subsystem in dynamic equilibrium with the parent ecosystem/biosphere that
but: right-side interdependencies
If population goes down, each can If consume more increase ‘do with’
efficiency A → A P → A
If affluence goes down, population can
A → P
If affluence goes up, there might be fewer births, but also fewer deaths...
A → P
If I ‘do without’, ceteris paribus others can increases (if T goes down), more can be produced, and P-x-A (total consumption) can rise
T → A
T → P
the interdependencies graphically
AT LEAST NINE SIMULTANEOUS EQUATIONS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF
A[ ЄP x] =f(A[ Є P y ])
Pollution or Depletion 6)
5) MEANS: AFFLUENCE CHANGES OF SOME AFFECT AFFLUENCE OF OTHERS; 8) LIKEWISE FOR POPULATION; AND 9) LIKEWISE FOR TECHNOLOGY.
I = P x A x T
If natural-resource quotas (
) are not in place, rebounds will cancel out given reductions in
interdependency ) (Alcott 2010, JCLPR) But:
↓ is just too brutal, so
work is urgent.
Extreme local resource scarcity, starvation:
↓, there is room for
Isn’t this what we want?