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.

The Sigma Of Growth

We need a social revolution to sweep the country (and the world): changing the business-as-usual economy into a stable, sustainable, human-oriented economy. A transition to a just, dynamic steady state economy will require movement of the people. This has me thinking that one thing we need is to create a stigma around pro-growth supporters: those that support continued economic growth in the face of ecological and social degradation.

In the seventies it was “the man.” The Man was keeping us down. The Man was taking our money. The Man was pushing his agenda of consumption, 40-hour work weeks and corporate profit. Today that stigma has been replaced with acceptance and encouragement! We need to bring back the Man, but we also need to create a similar stigma on the pro-growthers, the liquidators.

I propose “growther.” It sums it up pretty well. It should be used in disgust and disapproval, like “that’s the agenda of a growther trying to destroy your work-life balance” or “those growthers are driving our planet towards collapse” or “you ignorant growther!” I’m open to other ideas, too, so please chime in!

Brian Czech on BNN

I’ve been busy drafting a guest post for another blog, as well as enjoying this great weather (seldom comes to Seattle), so it will be a few more days before another good post materializes. I do have some cool news, though, something I wanted to share earlier:

Brian Czech on BNN
CASSE vs Barclays Capital

Brian Czech, President of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) and author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train,  was on Business News Network for a debate over economic growth.

This is an exciting step into the mainstream media for CASSE and the steady state economy. Face time on any major news network is good, especially when Brian raises such good points. It also helps that the Barclays’ representative (who is treated like an authority on economics, even though he looks a little green to me) stumbles a bit and uses “modest” more than a modest amount.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an embed-able video of it, but you can watch the debate here.

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”

Newsweek: The No-Growth Fantasy

Newsweek recently published an article titled, “The No-Growth Fantasy: Europe’s Attack on Capitalism.” Calling a no-growth economy a fantasy is a bit delusional, I think continued economic growth is the real fantasy here. I just commented on that article, my response is below – expanded past their comment section’s character limit.

“A large part of what was taken as growth was financed by unsustainable bubbles in credit and asset prices.” Most of our growth in the past 50 years has been nothing but bubbles: credit bubbles, housing bubbles, internet bubbles, property bubbles – even a Uranium bubble. We all hate when the bubble pops, why get back on the growth horse and expect different?

You discuss resource depletion as if it can be thinned down to last forever, while we continue to grow the economy (and therefore, the amount of resources needed). Efficiency is key, for sure. However, you can only get so efficient! If we could reach 100% efficiency we’d be able to use the same gallon of gasoline in our cars over and over again forever. Even if you don’t trust those pesky laws of thermodynamics, common sense should tell you this is pure nonsense.

And discussions of “barely tapped potential of genetic engineering and other plant-breeding technologies” envision a future of mutated plants, crowded cities, and soylent green. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live in a world of genetically engineered food supplements, packed into a tight living space, simply because we didn’t want to think outside of economic growth. Besides, these technologies will have their limits as well, assuming we can make them viable in time, and then what? What’s the next thing we can latch onto in order to keep this hamster wheel spinning?

“Even if the critics are right and growth is going to be harder to attain post-crisis, that’s no reason to give up on it. Just the opposite: all the more reason to spend our energy coming up with the right policies—from education and innovation to entrepreneurship and competition—that will help foster it.” Right, pick something to keep the wheel going because you’re afraid to deal with the transition to a stable, just, sustainable economy? This is cowardice shrouded in a cloak of misplaced optimism.

Continue reading “Newsweek: The No-Growth Fantasy”

Add It Up

I received an email today from Rob Dietz, Executive Director of The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). CASSE has now officially launched their new website! More great news: they have completely re-invigorated their blog, now known as The Daly News.  Herman Daly, the award-winning economist and incisive writer who developed the concept of the steady state economy, will kick off the new blog on March 1.

In addition to Professor Daly, the core rotation of authors at The Daly News includes Brian Czech (wildlife biologist, ecological economist, and author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train), Brent Blackwelder (former president of Friends of the Earth and founder of American Rivers), and Rob Dietz (environmental scientist and executive director of CASSE). (There is even a rumor that yours truly might be privileged enough to post along side these greats as a guest contributor!) You can access the blog on CASSE’s website or via RSS feed.

CASSE has also released an entertaining animated short called Add It Up that tells the truth about pursuing perpetual economic growth. The animation, produced by film students at the University of Southern California, is available on CASSE’s website and YouTube, as well as here:

For more information about these resources and other news about the steady state economy, please read the most recent edition of CASSE’s The Steady Stater newsletter (pdf)

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”