Fear of fallowing: The specter of a no-growth world
The question that comes to my mind whenever I catch a glimpse of aggregate consumption is always the same: How can it last?
>Oil is not simply implicated in everything we call growth. There has never been growth without it.
>The limiting factor, in other words, is no longer tools but natural capital.
>“Leave it alone. Let it grow in order to slow or reduce the exploitation. This conforms perfectly to the economic definition of investment—a reduction in present consumption in order to increase a future capacity to consume.”
>As McKibben writes, “Growth is no longer making people wealthier, but instead generating inequality and insecurity.”
>China and India now demand an increasing share of the energy and resources that the United States and Europe once claimed for themselves, triggering unprecedented oil prices that reverberate throughout the global economy.
Questioning economic growth
Our global economy must operate within planetary limits to promote stability, resilience and wellbeing, not rising GDP, argues Peter Victor.
First, there is mounting evidence that this growth is largely unrelated to measures of happiness. Second, in recent decades, increasing inequality has accompanied
much of this growth, leading to problems ranging from poor public health to social unrest. Third, the prospects for real improvement in the developing world are likely to be diminished if developed countries continue to encroach on more ecological space.
The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) supports research on the interactions of natural and human-induced changes in the global environment and their implications for society.
That’s from an article last week in Der Spiegel online. None of this is a surprise to CP readers (see “Peak oil production coming sooner than expected“) or to those who follow the once staid International Energy Agency (see World’s top energy economist warns: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”).
It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the “total collapse of the markets” and of serious political and economic crises.
While the leaked document was confirmed in its existence, German officials insist that it hadn’t been edited, and that it wasn’t meant to published. Even so, the existence of the report indicates that another government is concerned about the implications that peak oil, if we really are approaching such a point, could have on a worldwide scale.
Whether or not you believe that peak oil is a pressing problem, it is interesting to note that some governments are starting to take the issue seriously — and even look for ways to avoid disaster that could come.
More information: Terry Macalister and Lionel Badal, “Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talks,” The Observer (August 22, 2010).
Stefan Schultz, “‘Peak Oil’ and the German Government,” SPIEGEL ONLINE (September 1, 2010).
The party is over, is it?
The constraints on our resources and environment—compounded by the rise of the middle class in nations such as China and India—will shape the rest of this century and beyond. Here is a visual accounting of what we have left to work with, a map of our resources plotted against time.
Humanity has only two paths forward at this point. As President Obama said in April 2009, “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.” Either we voluntarily switch to a low-carbon, low-oil, low-net water use, low-net-material use economy over the next two decades or the post-Ponzi-scheme-collapse forces us to do so circa 2030. The only difference between the two paths is that the first one spares our children and grandchildren and countless future generations untold misery.