Growth Isn’t Possible

Growth Will Kill Us All, If The Hamster Doesn't Get Us First

The new economics foundation (nef) has released a report title Growth Isn’t Possible, which is available for free download (pdf here) or purchase in a bound copy. The low-down is simple: in order to maintain the international goal of avoiding an increase of 2°C in global temperatures from carbon emissions we must stop economic growth. Basically, economic growth will kill us if we don’t “change our economy to live within its environmental budget.”

nef figures that with a growth rate of only 3%, the global economics “carbon intensity” would need to decrease by 95% by 2050 from 2002 levels. This requires an average annual reduction of 6.5%, which is even optimistically impossible in the best of circumstances. All of the “magic bullets” in the public discourse: carbon capture, nuclear, geo-engineering, et cetera are “dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions.”

Sure, our carbon intensity has nearly flatlined in the last few years, but we need to reverse this trend not flatten out or encourage growth. Technological efficiencies can help, but physical laws limit the amount of efficiency you can pump out of any system. Worse yet, we’ll never match growth in efficiency with even mild economic growth that our system has been designed to need. It’s simple mathematics, which neoclassical economists have never been good at in the first place.

A broader support for community-scale projects like decentralized energy systems are needed over the pipe dreams currently getting all the political attention and funding. nef’s research shows that in order to prevent runaway climate change we need to change. An economy that took into account environmental thresholds will be more likely able to not only avoid runaway climate change but provide improved human well-being in the future.

Continue reading “Growth Isn’t Possible”

The New Green Economy Day 2: Recap

It has been a whirlwind tour here at the NCSE New Green Economy Conference. I have been privleged to help out behind the scenes, but also attend some of the conference, including a break-out session yesterday. I have had very little time to write, as I have been busy round the clock with about 4-5 hours of sleep time. I do, however, have many things to write about – it’s just a matter of finding the time (and energy).

The second day of the New Green Economy Conference was exciting and enlightening. Over the course of the day I was lucky enough to meet many great minds. Just to name a few, they included Van Jones, Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, Jon Erickson, Brian Czech, Jim Tate, and more. The day started with round table discussions.

What follows is as, brief as I could make, a recap on the events of the second day of the NCSE New Economy Conference. Technically it was the first day, as Wednesday’s Workshops were hosted around the city by others. Today brought the near 1000 attendees to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center to talk about the Green Economy and sustainable economics. The irony of the event is the building’s namesake’s quote on the main hall wall:

“There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.”

Continue reading “The New Green Economy Day 2: Recap”

New Green Economy Day 1: Prologue

I’m writing today from a Starbucks in Ballston, just outside the nation’s capital. Today is the first day of the three day New Green Economy Conference, where I will be attending and volunteering. It has proven to be a good trip so far, and I am looking forward to meeting all those sustainably-minded people I have been reading: Tim Jackson, Herman Daly, Brian Czech, and many more.

Today’s workshop is “Alternatives to Neoclassical Economics for Business and National Security.” It’s all day, should be a very informative. We’ll be hearing from Dr. James Giordano of the Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesDr. Brian Czech of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), R. Warren Flint of Five E’s Unlimited, and Joan Michelson, writer and editor.

Today’s Session Goals:

“During this workshop participants will learn the positions of conventional economists and ecologists and be exposed to alternative concepts including incorporation of sustainability, diversity and valuation into human economies.

After the workshop participants will better understand how natural and human economies work, on how they incorporate non-commodity resources into value systems, and the ethical and moral positions taken by ecologists and economists.”

Be sure to follow me on twitter for updates in the moment, I’ll be visiting with some friends in DC tonight and then hopefully writing a recap of concepts, ideas, and things gained from today’s workshop.

Growing the Growth Debate

In an certain ironic sense the “growth” of the growth debate is a bit of an oxymoron, but then again so is “jumbo shrimp.” I am a believer in humanity’s common sense and ability to make progress, even in the face of our own evils and stupidity. It sure seems to me that one could become down-trodden by news of all the degradation of our planet, social bonds, communities, humanity, and equality that result from endless pursuit of material wealth. Yet, it is to our own credit that we realize the err of our ways and make attempts to fix these problems.

There has been an increase in the number of post-growth-ers, de-growth-ers, steady-staters, and general questioning of economic growth in the last year. This might be partially fueled by the global economic recession and the increasing alarm of climate change. I also think it is beginning to fuel itself: our activities to raise awareness are spreading the seeds and we’re starting to see those seeds blossom. This is the early Spring of the Big Growth Debate. I hope to see 2010 as the year we changed the economic discussion on a mainstream level.

I am heading to DC next Tuesday to attend the New Green Economy Conference, where I will be volunteering and helping out, as well as joining in on some great seminars, breakout sessions, and symposia. I will, of course, be blogging while there, keeping you all in the loop of the fun and games.

While I partake in the furthering the growth debate, I hope you’ll take some time to further your knowledge as well! Here are a few resources for you to check out:

  • Economists start to consider that money can’t buy happiness – a recent article by the Guardian about our metrics of prosperity, alternatives to GDP are becoming a bigger topic nowadays
  • Beyond Growth – a new project put together by Jeremy Williams of the blog Make Wealth History
  • Post Growth – a new project I am working on with some fellow steady staters, still in-process, but getting closer to an official launch.
  • Make Wealth History – Jeremy, as mentioned above, is the blogger behind this work – great stuff on sustainability, related news, book reviews, and sustainable economies.
  • cruxcatalyst – Sharon is the other blogger I am working with on the Post Growth project, her blog is her place to show off and stash great articles and the occasional piece of her own work.

New CASSE Site

Also, just a note – if you haven’t seen it yet, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy has a brand new website design – check it out! They’re still triple checking the site for bugs, but it looks amazing!

Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth

Dave Gardner, film producer/director/writer, is in the process of completing would could be a monumentally important film in exposing the fallacy of “growth everlasting.” Armed with a camera and donations from regular folks, Dave has traveled the world questioning our growth addiction. He started in his home town of Colorado Springs and has now taken the filming to the national and global arena.

Hooked On Growth: Our Misguided Quest For Prosperity” is still in production and could use your help to finish off the process, please take a moment to make a tax-deductible donation to help fund the film’s release. Here’s a quick blurb from the site about the movie:

“Why is it more important to our society to have GDP growth than clean air? And why do communities seek andsubsidize growth even when it destroys quality of life andincreases taxes?

Our growth-centric system is broken. It’s not providing the happiness or the prosperity we seek. But that’s good news; it means a shift to a sustainable model will not require great sacrifice or pain. A transformation will allow us to be happier and more prosperous…

From Las Vegas to Atlanta, Mexico City to Mumbai, the White House to the Vatican, Hooked on Growthtakes us on a whirlwind tour of growth mania. It’s Wild Kingdom with a twist: the cameras are turned onhumanity as our own survival skills are examined. Hooked on Growth looks into the psychology of denial and crowd behavior. It explores our obsession with community growth and economic growth, and our reluctance to address overpopulation issues head-on. This documentary holds up a mirror, encouraging us to examine the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind – and the values we need to embrace – in order that our children can survive and thrive.”

View the Trailer here (also below) and join the cause!

Consuming Our Way To Prosperity

First off let me say that I have had a crazy couple of weeks between holidays and family and then getting my wisdom teeth pulled. As such, I haven’t had much time to read, let alone write, so the blog will be a little slow for the next week or so. But feat not! In just two weeks I will be on my way to the Capital City to attend the New Green Economy Conference. There I will be keeping you all up to date on the daily workshops, volunteer activities, and events!

While reading an article I was reminded of a topic I have been trying to formulate words on: measuring progress. As George Monbiot puts it,

“In our hearts most of us know it is true, but we live as if it isn’t. Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions which sustain life. Governments are deemed to succeed or fail by how well they make money go round, regardless of whether it serves any useful purpose. They regard it as a sacred duty to encourage the country’s most revolting spectacle: the annual feeding frenzy in which shoppers queue all night, then stampede into the shops, elbow, trample and sometimes fight to be the first to carry off some designer junk which will go into landfill before the sales next year. The madder the orgy, the greater the triumph of economic management.

“Though we know they aren’t the same, we can’t help conflating growth and well-being… GDP is a measure of economic activity, not standard of living.”

Read through Prosperity Without Growth and the new economics foundation‘s publications and you will find tons of information about prosperity, progress and the measuring of it. In fact, there are numerous metrics out there to choose from. I just wrote a post for new project I am working on with some fellow steady staters on the subject of measuring progress, read it here.