Towards a steady-state economy
Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans affecting Earth on a vast scale. Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency. According to the New Scientist October 2008 special report a growing band of experts are looking at trends like these and arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.
- A Steady-State Economy In this thinkpiece commissioned by the UK Sustainable Development Commission Herman Daly points out that a failed growth economy and a steady-state economy are not the same thing; they are the very different alternatives we face. He provides a historical perspective on our growth economy, and then looks at the changes a steady state economy might bring. He tackles the issue of poverty, international trade and product life-cycles. His message is clear that the economy must conform to the rules of a steady stateóseek qualitative development, but stop aggregate quantitative growth
- Special report: How our economy is killing the Earth In this special issue, New Scientist brings together key thinkers from politics, economics and philosophy who profoundly disagree with the growth dogma but agree with the scientists monitoring our fragile biosphere. The father of ecological economics, Herman Daly, explains why our economy is blind to the environmental costs of growth ("The World Bank's blind spot"), while Tim Jackson, adviser to the UK government on sustainable development, crunches numbers to show that technological fixes won't compensate for the hair-raising speed at which the economy is expanding ("Why politicians dare not limit economic growth"). Gus Speth, one-time environment adviser to President Jimmy Carter, explains why after four decades working at the highest levels of US policy-making he believes green values have no chance against today's capitalism ("Champion for green growth"), followed by Susan George, a leading thinker of the political left, who argues that only a global government-led effort can shift the destructive course we are on ("We must think big to fight environmental disaster").
- Global Warming and Modern Capitalism This article is adapted from James Gustave Speth's The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing From Crisis to Sustainability
- Prospects for reconciling the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation with technological progress In this Conservation Biology article, author Brian Czech reviews the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation in the absence of technological progress, explore the prospects for technological progress to reconcile that conflict, and provide linguistic suggestions for describing the relationships among economic growth, technological progress, and biodiversity conservation. He shows that reconciling the conflict via technological progress has not occurred and is infeasible because of the tight linkage between technological progress and economic growth at current levels of technology. Surplus production in existing economic sectors is required for conducting the research and development necessary for bringing new technologies to market. Technological regimes also reflect macroeconomic goals, and if the goal is economic growth, reconciliatory technologies are less likely to be developed. As the economy grows, the loss of biodiversity may be partly mitigated with end-use innovation that increases technical efficiency, but this type of technological progress requires policies that are unlikely if the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation (and other aspects of environmental protection) is not acknowledged.