Thursday, October 23, 2008

Economy and the earth


The New Scientist released a special report on how the economy is killing the earth:

THE graphs climbing across these pages (see graph, right, or explore in more detail) are a stark reminder of the crisis facing our planet. 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.

But are these efforts to save the planet doomed? A growing band of experts are looking at figures 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.

This, of course, is economic heresy. Growth to most economists is as essential as the air we breathe: it is, they claim, the only force capable of lifting the poor out of poverty, feeding the world's growing population, meeting the costs of rising public spending and stimulating technological development - not to mention funding increasingly expensive lifestyles. They see no limits to that growth, ever.

For a full introduction and some free papers read here.

2 comments:

Derek Wall said...

'We thus have any interesting problem, economic growth is unsustainable for a variety of reasons, however it is inherent in a modern capitalist economy. Providing alternatives to capitalism is no easy task but it is necessary. I suspect that ultimately it is easier to change the economic system than basic ecological realities, however most commentators reverse my approach'

http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/2008/10/why-system-requires-economic-growth.html is my analysis that went towards the Sustainable Development Commission discussion on growth, that is in turn debated in New Scientist.

Martin de Wit said...

Derek, thanks for the comment. I agree that the tension between the (unfettered) capitalist system and basic ecological realities is becoming more clear. Would be interested to hear your views on the option to change the system from within as opposed to structural systems change.