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.

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:

Limits To Growth Compared To 30 Years of Reality

It’s a couple years old already, but I just found it and want to pass it on. A report published in June 2008 by CSIRO, an Australian science and researching body, compares the prophecies of the seminal Limits To Growth with the thirty years of data since its original publication. Turns out, the Meadows (et al) were not full of shit – we do live on a finite planet and will run out of resources quickly if we continue to follow growth instead of living within our means. In fact, as the CSIRO report points out, we’re on track for nature to force us to stop growing.

Read the whole report here (pdf).

California Maintains Climate Bill

While this mid-term election has been mixed (mostly bad news), the voters in California maintained their ground-breaking climate bill AB 32, defeating the oil-industry funded Proposition 23. There is a lot of speculation on why voters kept this bill in play, but I think the most realistic one is that they have seen the affects and like it! Californians have seen how a cap-and-trade bill can be good for their economy, promote a more sustainable society and protect the environment.

Let the Golden State help show us all there is still hope for progress in the battle against climate change.

Proposal To Extend Montreal Protocol Gaining Support

Along the same vein, this election has pretty much shown that action on climate by congress is no in the near future, if at all. There are lots of other things being done, by industry, by the administration, by community groups and transition towns. On an international level the climate talks, with the next meeting schedule for Cancun, are a political dead-end as well without action from the US Congress. Alas! There is some hope…

Another international treaty that combats pollution, the Montreal Protocol, has eliminated 97 per cent of the ozone-harming chemicals. From the sounds of it, the annual signatory meetings go smoothly and without much fuss. Better yet, there is a growing support to expand the Montreal Protocol to include HFCs, an ozone-harming and incredibly harmful greenhouse gas (1000 times worse than CO2).

The resolution has gained support from developed nations and includes a fast implementation to eliminate a type of greenhouse gas that could help push major climate destabilization off by years, even a decade, by eliminating up to 88 billion carbon-equivalent tons of greenhouse gasses. It’s not a complete climate agreement, but it’s something in the right direction.

Dear Dick Smith

As Dave mentioned in the last post, Australian Dick Smith has offered a challenge to those steady-staters under 30 years of age: get famous furthering the post-growth solution and win $1 million dollars (Australian). While there is a small amount of irony in the proposal, it is much needed money that could do a lot to increase the movement. There is already a few ideas in work amongst the eager post-growther, de-growthers and steady-staters, but more to come on that later. For now, here’s my response to Dick Smith’s post on his website..

Dick Smith
Dick Smith's Wilbderforce Award

Dear Dick,

Thank you so much for placing such an inspiring award in the public arena. The issues confronting human society are grave to say the least, yet they pale in comparison to the spirit and optimism we carry with us. Those of us in the “next generation” hold the key to shaping the future of what will surely be the most pivotal century in all of human history. Climate destabilization is already taking place and will only increase if we continue to follow the growth paradigm. Resource scarcity, pollution, community degradation, biodiversity loss and the breakdown of civilization are the only future presented by further growth of our economy.

There are many of us that recognize these challenges and are working as best as we can to solve them. For several years I have run a blog called Steady State Revolution, where I focus on the damaging behavior of conspicuous consumption and the need for a sustainable alternative. Recently I co-founded a blog called Post Growth with a few other fellow-minded bloggers, both in the United States (Scott Gast) and in Australia (Sharon Ede). Another blogger friend of mine in the UK, Jeremy Williams has been making waves with his blog Make Wealth History and a website called Beyond Growth.

I’ve recently taken a post with the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) as their Washington State Chapter Director. CASSE has been working hard to further the public conversation about these topics and I have been privileged to help them in their endeavors. Their new blog, the “Daly News,” features some of the most prominent names in ecological economics – including the blog’s namesake Herman Daly.

Every one of these people recognizes the conflict between continued economic growth and ecological sustainability. We see how the growth economy must transition to a stable, dynamic, steady state economy to insure a livable, just and flourishing human society is passed down to future generations.

Your prize may very well represent a flag under which we can all unite.

I believe the single most important thing in the success of the human experience is community. No man is an island, and this is an even more evident truth in the face of climate change and peak oil. Our way of life is dependent upon others, and the way we live impacts everyone. A sustainable economy will require strengthening our local and global communities, working together in cooperation instead of competition.

Your award represents a means to help pull more of us together, not for the money, but for the possibility of inspiring change and the ability to enhance the recognition of a sustainable way of life for all.

I look forward to the next year!

All the best,

Joshua Nelson
Washington State Chapter Director
Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

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.

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:

Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth

Juliet Schor is a co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream and a well-resumed author. She has partnered in the past with the likes of Tim Jackson and Bill McKibben on various tasks. A personable, well-spoken women from Boston College, Juliet has a new vision for the economy: plenitude. Her new book, Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth, attempts to answer an important question: How do we create a society that provides prosperity to us all without relying on continued economic expansion?

Plenitude offers not only a great argument against economic growth as we’ve known it, but a vision for a rethinking productivity and innovation for our future. It is uses an integrated approach to set out a vision to work on all these fronts to see a new way of living that is low-footprint and puts people back to work that creates new forms of wealth and well-being. Read my article on Post Growth and check out the video of her recent talk at Town Hall Seattle on Vimeo here.

The Gulf Oil Spill

As odd as it sounds, I think the gigantic BP oil spill in the gulf is acting as a wake up call to many: this is the future of fossil fuels. It’s only going to get harder and more dangerous. Meanwhile, the largest fishery in the US is being destroyed in the pursuit of a unsustainable fuel source. Hopefully this will open our eyes to the fact that BP really doesn’t have our interests in mind, only its profits. That is what corporations do: go for profits, not for people.

Read Scott’s recent article about this on Post Growth.

The Great Tax Parachute

Its hard for me to keep up with all the amazing things coming out of the new economics foundation (nef). This report was released late last month after lots of news that the UK government (as well as others during this time of economic hardship) announced cuts in programs and government employment will be necessary. However, as nef outlines, there are many progressive taxes we can introduce that can balance the budget and keep those programs.

This proposal is in-line with one of the coming shifts: the great tax shift (working on a post about this, actually). In order to create a sustainable society we must stop subsidizing fossil fuels and intensive, destructive farming but instead tax resource extraction and pollution and institute new subsidies on renewable energy.

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:

The 3/50 Project: Uniting Small Business With Local Citizen Action

In an effort to support local businesses and local economies and new campaign called the 3/50 Project asks you to pick your 3 favorite local businesses and donate $50 a month to each. From there website, “If have the employed population spent $50 in a locally owned business, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue…. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community.”

Even though the site’s founder is likely a growth-support, the concept is in-line with steady state economics: local economy is the core. If you want a more secure, just economy, starting local is the only way to go. Your money speaks louder than your words nowadays, so spend it wisely. It is simple campaigns like this one that inspire me to be hopeful, as the simple ones are usually more successful.

UK Post Bank Campaign

The campaign for a “post bank” in the UK isn’t exactly breaking news, but the progress and concept are noteworthy nonetheless. Just recently Ed Miliband, the British energy and climate secretary, put his support behind the post bank as well. To quote Miliband in the article, “It speaks to people’s sense of community – and frankly, banks have let down low-income consumers, and others as well. It is part of a new deal for the low paid around the banking industry.” (He isn’t the first to bank this idea, see here)

A post bank would be a public-owned bank run through the post office. It would be an readily available, community bank – allowing the people access to bank accounts without dealing with the fat-cat, big banks that dominate the landscape today. This institution would help small businesses, people of low incomes, and could restore public faith in the banking system (as well as create a banking system deserving of that trust).

Co-op profits surge as customers desert UK’s bigger banks

Right in line with the last bit, here is some news that points towards a more promising future: co-ops over big banks. Co-op groups reported a 38 percent increase in new accounts. Credit unions and co-ops internalize a lot of their risk, tend to lend more responsibly, and keep their profits in the community. In case you weren’t reading the above parts about how important the local economy and community really are, read my posts on the subject (“The New Economy Starts Here” & “Local Currency & Bartering“)

So, news that the co-ops are seeing a profit serge as UK citizens leave the bigger banks is a good trend for two reasons: (1) hopefully this is a sign we have learned not to trust in the big, greed banks that caused our most recent “Great Recession,” and (2) we’re pushing towards a steady state economy with action – which speaks louder than, well, words.

Points of Progress

I’m going to start a new serious in this blog, “Points Of Progress,” a once-monthly report of things happening in our world, policies, articles, and practices in-line with the steady state economy, that are worth some time to read about –  the good news, the promising results. This stems from the many articles I have been scoping through on google reader (a great RSS feed tool, for those of you interested in getting updates via rss).

Through the 50-100 posts I receive daily, I manage to pick out a handful of good ones and post on twitter (follow me), but some of these deserve some recognition on this blog. This monthly report is for the exciting things happening I just don’t have time to post about in-depth. Here are some cool things happening in the world:

Maryland’s New Alternative Metric: The GPI

Herman Daly‘s home state has just instituted their version of the Genuine Progress Indicator. This alternative to the grossly inadequate GDP takes into account 26 factors, from incorporating the costs of crime to the costs of ozone depletion. The state is using the GPI as a tool to education the public and policymakers on the balance between costs and benefits of decisions regarding resource use.

As Governor O’Malley said, “The GPI will help us ensure that our economic growth will not come at the cost of our natural resources, and that they both support our progress toward a sustainable future and a better qualify of life for all Maryland families.”

21 Hours: Work Less, Live More

Part of the many policies of a steady state economy, adjusting the work hours for increases in efficiency is a policy that could revolutionize our society. Not only does this policy fight unemployment head-on by making more work available, it frees up time in our weeks to do something really important – live.

The new economics foundation’s new report, 21 Hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century outlines how the average time worked in Britian, 21 hours, should  be the new standard. As nef explains, “A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: The average overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”

The IMF Rethinks Macroeconomics

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not only recently acknowledged that macroeconomic policy may have “exacerbated the recent financial crisis,” but also has begun to rethink those policies.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist, published a paper, “Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy” (pdf), stating that better economic policies might include increased government involvement, higher inflation, and help for the poor. The IMF’s typical policy of telling governments that less intervention and low inflation were powerless to prevent the “Great Recession.” Great news for those of us hoping for changes in the IMF and World Bank.