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    Whenever the UK, or any country, has consumed/produced less than the previous year we are said to be in a recession.

    So our economy is based on ever-increasing consumption and is somehow expecting to go on doing this forever. However we live on a planet of finite resources.

    With predictions of peak oil, peak fossil water, and peaks in many metals within this century, unprecedented levels of pollution in the air and water, as well as threat of global warming, surely it is clear that this economic model is by very definition unsustainable.

    Surely it is time we change to a steady-state economy?
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      (Original post by Sime)
      So our economy is based on ever-increasing consumption and is somehow expecting to go on doing this forever. However we live on a planet of finite resources.

      With predictions of peak oil, peak fossil water, and peaks in many metals within this century, unprecedented levels of pollution in the air and water, as well as threat of global warming, surely it is clear that this economic model is by very definition unsustainable.
      The sun's still got a few billion years of life left, mate, so I wouldn't worry yourself about sustainability just yet.

      (Plus there's a little thing called recycling which allows us to reuse natural resources, including reusing them in different ways. How clever is that?)
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        (Original post by Sime)
        Whenever the UK, or any country, has consumed/produced less than the previous year we are said to be in a recession.

        So our economy is based on ever-increasing consumption and is somehow expecting to go on doing this forever. However we live on a planet of finite resources.

        With predictions of peak oil, peak fossil water, and peaks in many metals within this century, unprecedented levels of pollution in the air and water, as well as threat of global warming, surely it is clear that this economic model is by very definition unsustainable.

        Surely it is time we change to a steady-state economy?
        Even if our consumption stays constant, and even if our consumption reduces to zero, I'm afraid that physics has some bad news for you. The second law of thermodynamics indicates that (among other things) economic activity cannot occur without some waste. Thus, no matter how efficient our systems get, we will eventually use up the finite resources of this planet, and eventually of this universe, anyway. No economy we could possibly have is sustainable.
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        I am aware of the menagerie of renewable energies available, but so far our steps towards them are too small and too slow.

        And only 3% of plastic is recycled globally.

        This is basically what I am getting at: Story of Stuff
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          (Original post by Sime)
          I am aware of the menagerie of renewable energies available, but so far our steps towards them are too small and too slow.

          And only 3% of plastic is recycled globally.

          This is basically what I am getting at: Story of Stuff
          That's not in any way an argument for a steady-state economy, though. Instead, it's an argument for working towards more renewable sources of growth...
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          (Original post by Saichu)
          Even if our consumption stays constant, and even if our consumption reduces to zero, I'm afraid that physics has some bad news for you. The second law of thermodynamics indicates that (among other things) economic activity cannot occur without some waste. Thus, no matter how efficient our systems get, we will eventually use up the finite resources of this planet, and eventually of this universe, anyway. No economy we could possibly have is sustainable.
          So we just don't do anything?

          I don't think that's a sufficient argument for not changing our current economy, at least to one that is more sustainable.
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            (Original post by Sime)
            This is basically what I am getting at: Story of Stuff
            Yeah, the narrator makes some fallacies, the most relevant one being that "linear" growth is a problem. Growth being a problem does not follow from any of her arguments; although it does mean that the external costs she portrays would come about even faster, she does not consider that maybe these growth of these costs is better than the next biggest evil.

            As Kolya said, a better solution is probably to find ways of growth that does not face so many external costs.

            I am not saying that she is wrong generally, just that she is wrong in that particular inference, which unfortunately was the topic of your OP.


            Edit:

            (Original post by Sime)
            So we just don't do anything?

            I don't think that's a sufficient argument for not changing our current economy, at least to one that is more sustainable.
            Of course it isn't. I pointed it out because you seemed to be making a flawed inference: that growth is unsustainable due to finite resources, therefore we must stop growing. Actually, even if we stopped growing (heck, even if we stopped consuming), our economy would still be unsustainable.
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            (Original post by Kolya)
            That's not in any way an argument for a steady-state economy, though. Instead, it's an argument for working towards more renewable sources of growth...
            Okay well:

            Environmental:
            - An economy with stable population and consumption features decreased usage of natural resources and less waste deposition in the environment.
            - An economy that respects biophysical limits does not excessively disrupt natural ecosystems and ecosystem services.
            - It is right-sized to balance with nature and protect the life-giving resources and processes of the planet.

            Lifestyle:
            - Life is improved as overconsumption, congestion, sprawl, and unfair trade practices fade away.
            - Efficiency is still valued, but the tasks for which we seek maximum efficiency are more carefully considered.
            - People have more time and inclination to focus on community, relationships, sufficient consumption, and other important life matters.

            Moral:
            - On a planetary scale, limiting growth in nations that enjoy high levels of per capita consumption would leave more room for economic growth in those nations where citizens are getting by on low levels of consumption.
            - In the long run, preventing over-consumption in the present leaves greater opportunities for future generations to meet their needs.
            - Limiting growth can lower the percentage of planetary resources appropriated to human economies, resulting in more room for nature and continued evolution of ecosystems and species.

            For the most part, economies either grow or prosper at one time, both cannot happen together. I think we've grown enough to be honest and should start prospering!

            And again with the finite planet stuff.
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            (Original post by Saichu)
            Yeah, the narrator makes some fallacies, the most relevant one being that "linear" growth is a problem. Growth being a problem does not follow from any of her arguments; although it does mean that the external costs she portrays would come about even faster, she does not consider that maybe these growth of these costs is better than the next biggest evil.

            As Kolya said, a better solution is probably to find ways of growth that does not face so many external costs.

            I am not saying that she is wrong generally, just that she is wrong in that particular inference, which unfortunately was the topic of your OP.
            Haven't we grown enough? We're almost at 7 billion people. The strains of our growth thus far are now starting to show.

            Any steps we take to reduce emissions or pollutants are offset by an increase in growth, we really need to stop focusing of growth, and instead focus on revamping our current infrastructure and systems as to make them more efficient, use less resources, and to have less of an impact on the planet.
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              (Original post by Sime)
              Haven't we grown enough? We're almost at 7 billion people. The strains of our growth thus far are now starting to show.

              Any steps we take to reduce emissions or pollutants are offset by an increase in growth, we really need to stop focusing of growth, and instead focus on revamping our current infrastructure and systems as to make them more efficient, use less resources, and to have less of an impact on the planet.
              Please see my edit also, in case you haven't already.

              What you're asking is quite a deep and intricate question. Maybe it is theoretically possible that we've grown enough, if we allowed for the most dramatic changes to be made (a complete redistribution of all wealth in society, among other things). In practice, however, people continue to be without resources; thus, the economy as a whole needs to produce more.

              Growth definitely should be combined with efforts of sustainability, I doubt you would find anyone (except possibly those who feel that their economy seriously needs growth, to hell with sustainability) who disagrees with that.


              (Or Republicans, jay kay.)
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              (Original post by Saichu)
              Edit:



              Of course it isn't. I pointed it out because you seemed to be making a flawed inference: that growth is unsustainable due to finite resources, therefore we must stop growing. Actually, even if we stopped growing (heck, even if we stopped consuming), our economy would still be unsustainable.
              Okay then, whilst apparently then no economy is completely sustainable, we still must face up to how grossly wasteful and inefficient our current economy is, and change to one that is more efficient and can spread out the use of resources over a greater period by incentivising efficiency, recycling and sustainability of products and services.

              If, hypothetically, somehow I designed a car now that could travel 1000 miles on a single electric charge, and it required no servicing for on average 80 years due to the quality of the few moving parts in the car. And if I could produce it for £10,000 each then the automobile sales and servicing industry would go completely bust, as people would only need to buy a car of this design, and would never have to buy one again.

              I'm not saying that the construction of such a vehicle is likely, but ultimately our economy doesn't allow for such a vehicle to be created. Our economy resists a low level of consumption.
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              (Original post by Sime)
              Okay well:

              Environmental:
              - An economy with stable population and consumption features decreased usage of natural resources and less waste deposition in the environment.
              - An economy that respects biophysical limits does not excessively disrupt natural ecosystems and ecosystem services.
              - It is right-sized to balance with nature and protect the life-giving resources and processes of the planet.

              Lifestyle:
              - Life is improved as overconsumption, congestion, sprawl, and unfair trade practices fade away.
              - Efficiency is still valued, but the tasks for which we seek maximum efficiency are more carefully considered.
              - People have more time and inclination to focus on community, relationships, sufficient consumption, and other important life matters.

              Moral:
              - On a planetary scale, limiting growth in nations that enjoy high levels of per capita consumption would leave more room for economic growth in those nations where citizens are getting by on low levels of consumption.
              - In the long run, preventing over-consumption in the present leaves greater opportunities for future generations to meet their needs.
              - Limiting growth can lower the percentage of planetary resources appropriated to human economies, resulting in more room for nature and continued evolution of ecosystems and species.

              For the most part, economies either grow or prosper at one time, both cannot happen together. I think we've grown enough to be honest and should start prospering!

              And again with the finite planet stuff.
              Fail.
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                (Original post by Sime)
                Okay well:

                Environmental:
                - An economy with stable population and consumption features decreased usage of natural resources and less waste deposition in the environment.
                First, population growth is primarily in developing countries, not developed countries. If you want to advocate a stable population, advocate that, not a stable economy. Second, as has already been pointed out to you: an increase in consumption can be combined with a decrease in the use of natural resources. (And vice versa: a decrease in consumption might lead to an increase in natural resources). You want to argue for sustainable growth, rather than a steady economy. Your solution is neither sufficient nor necessary.


                (Original post by Sime)
                - An economy that respects biophysical limits does not excessively disrupt natural ecosystems and ecosystem services.
                - It is right-sized to balance with nature and protect the life-giving resources and processes of the planet.
                Any economy can "respect biophysical limits" whether it is growing at 20% pa, not changing, or shrinking at 20% pa.


                (Original post by Sime)
                - Life is improved as overconsumption, congestion, sprawl, and unfair trade practices fade away.
                Again, those are not necessary consequences of growth.

                (Original post by Sime)
                - People have more time and inclination to focus on community, relationships, sufficient consumption, and other important life matters.
                Why won't that occur with growth? The UK has undergone a lot of growth in the past 200 years, and that has led to an increase in leisure time rather than a decrease.

                (Original post by Sime)
                - On a planetary scale, limiting growth in nations that enjoy high levels of per capita consumption would leave more room for economic growth in those nations where citizens are getting by on low levels of consumption.
                That is simply the constant-sum fallacy. There is not a certain amount of growth that is distributed among countries around the world.

                (Original post by Sime)
                And again with the finite planet stuff.
                And again with the recycling/external resources stuff.

                As should be clear, most of your reasons are based on a mistaken understanding of GDP growth. Some of your problems aren't coherent. And other problems don't require your solution: they have other, perfectly reasonable solutions, that you have ignored.
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                  (Original post by Sime)
                  I'm not saying that the construction of such a vehicle is likely, but ultimately our economy doesn't allow for such a vehicle to be created. Our economy resists a low level of consumption.
                  The "economy" does not "resist" anything. It's not an intelligence. In fact, if someone figured out how to build such a car, it would blow up in popularity (though it might be priced at more than 10,000), especially in third world countries and in purchases as company cars.

                  You could argue, rather, that the design of such a vehicle is unlikely. Who in their right mind would research a product that would probably put them out of business? A similar conflict of interest applies for medicines; researchers have much more incentive to look for treatments, rather than cures. This could very well be a critique of capitalism. It is tangential, however, to our issues about growth.
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                  (Original post by Sime)
                  Whenever the UK, or any country, has consumed/produced less than the previous year we are said to be in a recession.

                  So our economy is based on ever-increasing consumption and is somehow expecting to go on doing this forever. However we live on a planet of finite resources.

                  With predictions of peak oil, peak fossil water, and peaks in many metals within this century, unprecedented levels of pollution in the air and water, as well as threat of global warming, surely it is clear that this economic model is by very definition unsustainable.

                  Surely it is time we change to a steady-state economy?
                  Expand into space xD
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                  Sime is right. Some people want to bury their heads in the sand on this issue. The irony is most of the time its right wingers who like to say climate change is all a load of scare story claptrap but they're the same type who go mental if any economist challenges the rationale behind austerity measures, claiming the apocalypse is imminent due to the size of national debt...

                  There is no evidence that you can have economic growth on decreasing use of resources. If there was then why don't we do it? It sounds like a good way of saving money to me, lets use less inputs next year, get economic growth at cheaper value. Go for it.

                  If anybody here wants to claim that recycling is a viable solution then here's a challenge for you in 2011 - go for a zero carbon footprint, just consume recycled materials. Show us how its done and we can follow.

                  Ultimately unsustainability is unsustainable, and what will happen is the people who lived in a fantasy world that 'in the future' we will be ok because there will be solar panels and wind turbines everywhere that meet all of our energy needs, will get a shock when they find out that energy has to be seriously rationed. I wouldn't be surprised if by 2020 or 2025 parts of the UK go onto power outages like they have in South Africa, where they turn off the electricity for a couple of hours every day on a rota, to conserve energy. The hope for avoiding the problem seems to be that technology will advance so fast that it will always be one step ahead of the problem of depleting resources, I fear we are going to have a nasty shock in our own lifetimes, no doubt everyone will blame the government for not doing more to prevent it.
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                  (Original post by Kolya)
                  First, population growth is primarily in developing countries, not developed countries. If you want to advocate a stable population, advocate that, not a stable economy. Second, as has already been pointed out to you: an increase in consumption can be combined with a decrease in the use of natural resources. (And vice versa: a decrease in consumption might lead to an increase in natural resources). You want to argue for sustainable growth, rather than a steady economy. Your solution is neither sufficient nor necessary.
                  Well a steady population is a prerequisite of a steady-state economy.

                  What you are referring to is called decoupling I think. Where the natural resource usage per unit of economic output is reduced.

                  We can achieve relative decoupling by reducing the ecological intensity per unit of economic output. But to have a sustainable economy, we would need to achieve absolute decoupling, a situation in which resource impacts decline overall. Even if we make great gains in relative decoupling, which we have over the last several decades, these gains can be entirely swamped by economic growth. For example, carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output have decreased. But growth in economic output has led to higher absolute emissions of carbon dioxide, despite increasing efficiency.
                 
                 
                 
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