Top Ten Steady State Posts of 2010

Another year under the belt, Steady State Revolution celebrated two years of publication in November! It seems only fitting on this, the first day of 2011, we take a moment to review the best articles of the last year. This is a list of the top ten posts in the last year, chosen by me but with influence from feedback and analytic tracking (oh, technology!) as well. For those of you that are new to this blog or haven’t checked out the archives yet I hope this list is helpful for you!

2010 Top Ten Posts

  1. Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy – Inspired by Yes! Magazine yet again, I decided to map out the things I think will construct our post-growth/steady-state/new-economy. It is an open thread, by all means, let’s work together to make that list long, thoughtful and inspiring to others!
  2. Decoupling Demystified – Tim Jackson’s work in Prosperity Without Growth tackles this subject very well in an entire chapter. This post was written to further this key argument against the growth paradigm, and to show how real-life science trumps the back-woods mysticism that is the current economic theory.
  3. The Limits of Efficiency – A follow-up piece to the “Decoupling Demystified” post, this topic is in my opinion the ultimately proof that growth everlasting is impossible – unless we find a way to re-write the laws of physics, of course. Initially the idea for this post never blossomed into a full article, but after some prodding from some of you wonderful readers I committed to it.
  4. Dear Dick Smith – 2010 presented a wonderful surprise – Australian businessman Dick Smith challenged the world to bring the debate to the main stream public. The prize? A cool million (in Aussie bucks). I know, there is some irony in it, but it still presents a great opportunity to get something moving, and then eventually funded by Mr. Smith. This post is my response to his announcement.
  5. The Opportunity of Limits – It is very easy in today’s constant news feeds full of climate catastrophes, apocalyptic prophecies, peak oil and the apparent lack of government action, to get run down. I have fallen into this downward trap a few times myself, but we must recognize that opportunity in our trails. Climate change and peak oil are frightening, yes,  but dwelling on the negative is akin to giving up. Meanwhile, the limits that we face on a finite planet actually give us the potential to create a better society, not a worse one. We just need to identify to the potential for good and act on that foundation, instead of the other alternative.
  6. Ethical Banking Systems – This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted about banking and monetary policy, because it’s pretty important people! Like the awful and cheese bumper sticker says, “if you aren’t mad, you aren’t paying attention,” we are mostly clueless of the injustices we allow the banking system to get away with on a daily basis. We definitely need a better system, so let’s make one!
  7. Resiliency & Peak Oil – This is a short post, but the topic is the main reason it made this list. In the next few years we will see more and more how resilient communities prevail in the rising costs of oil, as well as the rising impacts of climate change. The Transition Town movement was created to help foster that resiliency, and whether you buy-in to that specific movement or not it is still an extremely important concept for sustainability.
  8. Nothing Grows Forever – In May Mother Jones released a issue tackling some strong topics: population, consumption and the growth paradigm. This post was my review of their article on steady state economics. By far this is one of the largest media outlets to write a (mostly) good critique of ecological economics and the post growth movement. The ending left something to be desired, but I won’t hold it against them.
  9. Earth Overshoot & Natural Debt – This year I wrote three separate posts for this blog, Post Growth and a guest post on another blog: all focused on the very real fact that we’re using our planets resources faster than can be generated, we’re in overshoot. This is not a good place to be in, especially if you have any knowledge of biology and carrying capacities – typically those populations in overshoot have a mass die-off and collapse. However, we’re smart and motivated, with knowledge of our mortality, so hopefully we can find a way out of this spiral and into a sustainably scaled economy and society.
  10. Obama Announces Degrowth, Wins Republican Support – I couldn’t not include this great little post. I talked myself out of doing an April Fool’s day post last year, but in 2010 I was invigorated by a few other fool’s day posts and went for it. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a great post and was well received!

Happy New Year to you all! I think Two-Thousand Eleven has a lot of good in store for us all, and I’m excited to see how we move forward on these important issues facing humanity.

Enough Is Enough

Enough Is Enough
Ideas for a Sustainable Economy

This year we saw the first Steady State Economy Conference held in Leeds, UK and hosted by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) and Economic Justice for All. While the reports from conference goers afterward were good, for those of us that couldn’t attend there was hope for something tangible to come out of it. Luckily for us, that happened to be one of the goals of the event.

Today is the release of a seminal paper, Enough Is Enough: Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, a 130 page report that not only addresses why we need an alternative to growth, but outlines policies to achieve such an alternative: a steady state economy.

Part One of the report covers the problems with growth, and the concept of enough. It open’s with a great quote from Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth, and keynote speaker at the conference:

“Here is a point in time where our institutions are wrong. Our economics is not fit for purpose. The outcomes of this economic system are perverse. But this is not an anthem of despair. It’s not a place where we should give up hope. It’s not an impossibility theorem. The impossibility lives in believing we have a set of principles that works for us. Once we let go of that assumption anything is possible.”

Part Two of the report contains the real guts of the report, outlining the most complete collection of policy ideas, tools and reforms in one place. This section has the most weight to it and will make the biggest splash, but Part Three helps to combine these policies with the reality present in Part One: how to get the economy functioning and transitioning to a steady state economy.

The problems are real, the studies numerous, and the evidence richly points to the need for an alternative to growth. A steady state economy represents the best of many solutions: providing a sustainable scale to the economy, as well as providing more prosperity for everyone. This report states the facts, outlines the way out of our economy of “more” and into an economy of “enough.”

Check out the Enough Is Enough page, download the report pdf or the report summary, and watch the many videos also available from the conference.

Bike Out, Bike In

Surly's Long Haul Trucker
The New Car

Thursday was a very interesting day. I was fighting the flu for the previous two days, of all things in the middle of summer! (I blame climate change 😉 ) Anyway, I woke up and decided that I should go to work regardless of my overall malaise, only to find that my bike was gone.

That’s right! Stolen from my carport! Generally it’s stored closer to the house, a little more out of sight. Of course, this time it was left a little more visible, and in our nice little neighborhood someone nicked it! That’s the bike out.

A little back story before the bike in portion: We recently moved in a great house across from a wooded park, close to our sons new day care, and within 2 miles of my work. An added benefit is that we had no excuse to have two cars. So we finally sold my rig (the less fuel efficient one). With that money I planned on upgrading my bike, paying down some of our debt and putting some money into savings.

My Son's New Bike
Start Steady Staters Young, My Son's New Bike

So, as horrible as it is to have your bike stolen from you, it is just as fortunate that I have the money to finally get the bike of my dreams. I have been putting a lot of thought into what would fit me (tall guy) and my riding style (road, light touring). I went with the Surly Long Haul Trucker (photo above). It’s the first bike since I was my son’s age that actually fits me perfectly. I love it!

How does this relate to the steady state economy? Being a “steady stater” involves living within your ecological means without undermining the ability of future generations to live a similar life. Part of that is removing fossil fuels, a dirty, non-renewable resource that is destroying our planet, from your life. What better way than to bike instead of drive? Pick up a bike on craigslist or freecycle or a local bike shop and try to integrate biking to work a few times a week.

Points of Progress

This semi-regular report includes things happening in our world, policies, articles and practices in-line with the steady state economy or transitioning to it, that are worth some time to read about –  the good news, the promising results. They are all exciting things happening I just don’t have time to post about each in-depth.

Here are some cool things happening in the world:

Peter Victor Lecture in Toronto

For those of you in the great Canadian wilderness of Toronto, or nearby, Peter Victor will be lecturing at the Center for Inquiry this Friday, July 2nd at 7pm. More than just a man with two first names, Peter Victor is the famous Canadian author of Managing Without Growth and a professor in environmental studies at York University.

Victor’s book is the result of an economic simulation devised to study the Canadian economy if it turned away from growth as its main policy goal, shifting to a sustainable, steady state economy. Results from his simulation suggest that it is possible to have  full employment, eradicate poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain fiscal balance without economic growth. If you’re able to attend his lecture, please take notes and let me know how it goes!

Tales From The Steady State Conference

Just a few weeks ago a gathering of minds took place in the town of Leeds, UK. A blogger friend of mine, Jeremy Williams of Make Wealth History was there, along with writer and activist Lucy Glynn. Lucy is the first to write a report back from the conference, though I hope to be featuring a guest post soon from Jeremy and/or Rob Dietz with CASSE, who help host the event.

The conference included great workshops and featured keynote speakers including Peter Victor, mentioned above; Andrew Simms, Policy Director at nef; Dan O’Neill, European Director of CASSE; and Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth and professor of sustainable development, University of Surrey.

Take a look at Lucy’s post at the nef triple crunch blog here.

Pacific Coast States Band Together To Ban Offshore Oil

As we transition to a steady state economy we will need to leave behind the unsustainable, destructive ways of our previous growth-driven economy. Foremost in my mind is the unbelievably harmful extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels. We’re nearly out of oil. This is ever apparent in the lengths to which we now go to find more oil: oil shale, Alaskan oil, deepwater drilling, et cetera.

Happy news for my home the Pacific Northwest: All three pacific states have come together to ban offshore oil. Each state has banned it off their coasts and are now working together to remove it from the federal waters that extend outside of the state’s coastal jurisdiction. I hope this passes through out congress and the western states can live happily in the knowledge that the Gulf spill won’t be repeated here.

Steady State Cyclist Tours Canada

I’ve been biking to work more and it got me thinking of bike touring – long distance traveling on a bike. I decided that I would make it a goal to do an extended bike tour next summer (the Seattle to Portland Classic plus three more days down the coast and back) to prepare me for the ultimate goal of a cross country bike trip.

No sooner did I start thinking of the practicality of this journey and deciding I should use it as an opportunity to promote the steady state economy, as well as hopefully pick up some sponsors (maybe a brewery or two?), than I get an email about Jordan’s cross-Canada journey promoting the steady state economy!

You can hear more about his trip at his blog, but I’ll be sure to talk about it along the way as well. What an truly exciting trip! This is taken directly from the press release: (links and emphasis added)

Riding a bike is all about balance.  The same is true of a world economy that can endure, one that is more than a series of bubbles-and-pops.  Jordan Poppenk will bring those two concepts together in a cross-Canada cycling tour to raise awareness about the concept of the steady state economy.

The world’s financial authorities are preparing to meet in Toronto to discuss how to get the global economy growing again. But Jordan Poppenk wants them to talk about how to stop the world economy from growing again, and he’s cycling across Canada to get their attention.

Poppenk is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto and an environmental journalist. He wants Canadians to know about new ideas emerging from the world’s economics departments, how they mesh with modern ecological challenges, and why it’s essential we rethink the current program of boosting GDP every year. He’s cycling 6,500 km to help get the idea out there.

A steady state economy aims for stable population and stable consumption of energy and materials at sustainable levels. Such an economy favors development (getting better) rather than growth (getting bigger).

“The steady state concept is about reaching some balance with what nature can provide, and within those limits, we can have a very vibrant, exciting and worthwhile economy,” says Peter Victor, an ecological economist at York University.  Dr. Victor’s model of the Canadian economy demonstrates how the nation can prosper with a steady state economy, as documented in his book, Managing Without Growth.

Poppenk adds, “Whether or not you believe in human-induced climate change, other signs of the severe strain on ecosystems from our already overwhelming economic activity are everywhere. Growth is not helping most people anyway; Canada’s economic output has doubled since 1982, but 80% of Canadians have seen no improvement in their inflation-adjusted incomes.”

Poppenk is teaming up with the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) to communicate how a steady state economy could be desirable and to spark discussion about transitioning from growth to sustainability. He departs from Vancouver today and he hopes to reach Halifax on September 1.

Information, updates and photographic materials are available on Poppenk’s blog: Steady State Cyclist.

Ethical Banking Systems

Banks should protect our money, not fleece us for their profit

Our money is loaned into existence and then must be paid back, plus interest. This interest can only come by earning (taking) money from other loans in the system, thereby installing inherit competition and scarcity in our society. Could you imagine a society in which we didn’t have to compete for a scarce amount of funds? How could this alter our communities or the way we treat each other?

An ethical banking system is one that upholds the value of the people who use it. Instead of a institution that values only profit, an ethical bank would value the people that support it. This really shouldn’t be too crazy of an idea, but our banks today do everything in their power to leverage greater profits. The recent economic crash being a prime example. We should support and create banks that support our societal and economic well being, not their CEO bonus checks.

The Reason We Need It

It seems like second nature to me that systems we create as a society should function with the ethics we value, but there is obvious room for improvement. When a lot of our organizations and industries started the room for growth seemed limitless, so it was much easier to gain advantage in the market and grow without sacrificing ethics. Like many things in this era, we’ve run out of that room and the only way to make a higher market share this year and next year is to start finding ethically gray (or black areas) for expansion (e.g. derivatives).

Paper exchanging for paper is now 20 times greater than exchanges of paper for real commodities. This distortion of value from real wealth to phantom wealth encourages a financially dependent system, driving up debt and down real value. Eventually those claims on wealth will be exchanged for actual wealth – even if there are no longer enough. An ethical banking system supports a more realistic approach to real wealth and the money that represents it – as well as environmental concerns with investment and social justice.

An Ethical Banking System is one that encourages stable and equal amounts of material wealth. If you haven’t clued into it yet, our current banking organizations do not function in an ethical way. Our banking system encourages debt, competition, scarcity, and unequal distributions of wealth. What if we created a bank in line with our values? One that supported the people, community, and real wealth?

Continue reading “Ethical Banking Systems”

The Steady State Economy Conference 2010

Next month in the town of Leeds, UK, the first Steady State Economy Conference will be presented entitled “The Steady State Economy: Working Towards an Alternative to Economic Growth.” The conference is organized by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy and Economic Justice for All. The two collaborating organizations have brought together some great minds including Peter Victor, Andrew Simms, Dan O’Neill, and Tim Jackson.

The conference keynote speakers will present the need for a steady state economy in the UK, and other developed nations, as well as how the UK might move towards a steady state economy. Workshops will take it a step further and “explore specific policy proposals for achieving a steady state economy.”

It is an exciting step in the process towards a sustainable economy! Rob Dietz, CASSE’s Executive Director, and Dan O’Neill, at the University of Leeds, have been working hard with David Adshead, Lorna Arblaster, Claire Bastin, and Nigel Jones of Economic Justice for All to create a great conference.

It’s being hosted on Saturday, June 19th and for a small registration fee of £30.00 (£50.00 if you register after May 30th). For all those who are in the area of Leeds or might want to make the trip, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make this conference, so I will be looking to others for news of the event!

Go online and register now!

Nothing Grows Forever

Mother Jones is asking some fierce questions

The most recent issue of Mother Jones, a magazine that credits itself for “smart, fearless journalism,” tackles some serious issues. The cover get’s started with the question “Who’s to blame for the population crisis? (A) The Vatican, (B) Washington, or (C) You?” Inside you’ll find some even more interesting stuff, including a 6 page article about “no-growth economics” entitled “Nothing Grows Forever: Why do we keep pretending the economy will?”

The article’s author, Clive Thompson, compiles a pretty good introduction to steady state thought. He starts by discussing how Peter Victor (author of Managing Without Growth and professor at York University) came to realize that the Earth really does have limits – limits that impose themselves on our growing economy.

After a brief history of the field and the economists that founded the ideas, Thompson inevitably arrives at  Herman Daly, “being the most prominent… of the key thinkers in the no-growth theory.” The first topic Thompson has Daly counter is the neoclassical economist’s idea that our economy will eventually decouple from environmental impact and resource use as it continues to grow.

In the past Daly has the idea of decoupling the economy from resource consumption a chimera. Daly’s view on this topic drives home the point that developed economies are still using more resources as they grow, they just outsource their resource use to developing countries. This, in turn, creates “blood-diamond-style conflicts” for the often exotic materials needed to supply continued economic growth. Thompson notes that “the growth of greenhouse gas emissions likewise demonstrates that the free market alone cannot deal with planet-threatening pollution.”

Continue reading “Nothing Grows Forever”