The steady-state economy and economic degrowth Beauty: the orphan of environmental policy Blake Alcott PhD candidate in ecological economics [email protected] www.blakealcott.org AGM, Population Matters London, 15 October 2011 square metres? planning “The National Trust believes in growth as we all do.” NT Dir Gen Fiona Reynolds & Dir of Conservation Peter Nixon in identical words George Monbiot (Guardian): “No one in their right mind disputes that England needs more homes, especially affordable homes. No one disputes that the planning system should deliver them.” economic growth is axiomatically good for good reason the growth coalition Tories Lib Dems Labour & everybody * “There is panic about growth. When we panic, we revert to type, and our true nature comes out.” Andy Atkins, Dir of FoE UK proof: usually-critical NT & Monbiot – who by the way also categorically believes that population is not part of environmental problems Recessionology in the Guardian alone: CBI Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors agreement between Terry Duddy (Home Retail Group) & Simon Jenkins (NT Chairman – present planning doesn’t “impede growth”): give money to consumers, not the banks Jonathan Freedland – “There was a growth-shaped hole in this speech... Cameron offered no plan to get Britain working again” & Jackie Ashley – “strategy for growth”, “pro-growth opposition”, supports planning reform for growth * *Ed Miliband > Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth UNELECTABLE 2011: “Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development” (Commission on Growth and Development) Lord Browne, Robert Solow... 2011: “Green Growth” Green New Deal Group Larry Elliott (Guardian), Caroline Lucas (GP), Andrew Simms (nef), Tony Juniper (ex-FoE)] Convenor Colin Hines: (Guardian Letter): “increase economic activity”, “tackle this demand deficit”, “kickstart the economy” the only thing NOT on the Mainstream Menu is No, Nil, Zero, No Growth like atheism in the 18th century OLD socialist HOPE: Guardian Letter 14 Sept: “No one has yet identified any growth potential that might solve the social problems arising from the increasing disparity in incomes.” some assertions • We’re using up resources faster than nature replenishes them. – fossil fuels, copper..... – groundwater, trees, fish.... non-renewables* renewables • We’re putting waste into nature, damaging health, climate and other species faster than... – heavy metals, unsightly plastics, GHGs.... • We’re squeezing more food out of the earth than it provides long-run. – soil degradation, soil erosion.... * no replenishment ‘development’ logic logical assertions: nothing can grow forever; no supply is unlimited = growth logic built-up not built-up political ‘planning’ fight COMPROMISE developer, maybe a ‘sustainable’ one OK no limits to growth after all? Let’s be optimistic. new deposits of metals, fossil fuels more efficient use of limited resources nuclear fusion will desalinate water! decrease consumption (population times affluence) greenhouse skyscrapers for edible plants copper, oil • Each further gram of copper mined requires more energy than the one before. • Tony Hayward: Kurdistan may be “the last big onshore ‘easy’ oil province available for exploration by private companies anywhere in the world.” • Lord Browne’s gas shale fracking near Blackpool; Alberta tar sands: ratio of energy won to energy invested is on average declining. • best is Saudi oil 10:1 18 months! groundwater (aquifers) # litres drawn or # cows on alp rationed for centuries; these are problems of the commons Many watersheds using aquifers are in steady-state. Others must degrow: Ebro, Colorado, Jordan, North China “World’s declining rivers put 5 billion people at risk.” (Nature) What should remain steady in a ‘steady-state’ economy? 1) the amount of natural resources we yearly take from nature and 2) the amount of waste we put back into it i.e., inputs into production and outputs from consumption, in biophysical terms, whose sum is called throughput steady input amounts of water, biomass, animals; steady output amounts ofgases, unhealthy water, degraded soil... and: metals, oil, coal, uranium... ooops! “It is just as stupid to sit freezing on a finite pile of coal as it is to use it all up.” THE NON-RENEWABLES PARADOX throughput = input + output = ecological economics solar energy global ecosystem planetary high-grade fossil energy resources materials, minerals economic subsystem low-grade energy planetary sinks wastes, pollution ‘waste’ : iron filings, tread-out steps, eroded paint, dead organisms, unfashionable clothes heat (The Limits to Growth: 30-Year Update) SSE policy recommendations 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Stabilise population Cap-auction-trade basic resources Eco-tax reform No fractional reserve banking Reform national accounts (replace GDP) main tool to shrink to an SSE: physically-defined caps on resources: litres of fossil fuel, number of fish, litres of aquifer water. (CASSE : Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy) population doesn’t matter • reducing population doesn’t help • consumption per person can simply go up, and we’re back where we started • nevertheless, as David Attenborough says, all problems would be simpler to solve if... • and rising consumption for the poor is good, • so lower population is good, but not necessarily for the environment Mainly, caps on resource use are just too brutal. We must protect ourselves by limiting our numbers. history: the cowboy economy • Kenneth Boulding, 1966 – the cowboy economy vs Spaceship Earth – “What has posterity ever done for me?” • Herman Daly, from 1968 on – ‘sustainable growth’ an oxymoron – we must live within nature’s limits • Limits to Growth, 1972 (Club of Rome) • 1988: International Society for Ecological Economics ISEE earlier debate Adam Smith wrote: (1776) The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of society; the stationary is dull; the declining melancholy. John Stuart Mill answered: (1871) There is room in the world for a great increase of population, but... I confess I see very little reason for desiring it. [wilderness, solitude, beauty] If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger but not a better or happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it. degrowth since 2004 décroissance, degrowth If we are using up resources faster than they’re replenished, or polluting faster than nature can clean things up, ‘the economy’ – our ecological ‘footprint’ – is too big: It must shrink, or ‘degrow’ ouch! What about jobs? What about material prosperity? What about poverty alleviation? population Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam: “Fundamentally, you need two things for dealing with population – one is girls’ education, which gives them power, confidence and knowledge, and then there is easy access to contraception. Most women do not want more than about three to five children – that is from surveys right across the world.” G2 2 Sept George Monbiot: “Population growth is not [an environmental] problem.” Fred Pearce, Lynsey Hanley VHEMT.org “May we live long and die out.” “Our movement hasn’t really caught on. People are breeding like there’s no tomorrow.” > Q&A “population economics” • ‘2000 Watt Society’, Zürich - 2000J/per second/person) If the population goes up 10%, the goal must be tightened to 1800W/person. • playing lower consumption off against lower population won’t do: ‘walk and chew gum at the same time’ • having a baby • measure resources, decide on desired quality of life human feedlot vs. quality of life • women’s health and rights and education: good per se • mortality declining as well as fertility (complacency) questions to PM quotas – e.g. one child per person is this something the majority can legitimately decide? is reproductive freedom absolute, not balanced by reproductive responsibility? PM opposes ‘coercive’ policies, but every law is coercive subsidies – ‘family-friendly’ tax deductions per dependent child child allowances one-off birth premiums cheaper housing, child-care, etc. tax child-bearing, pay for vasectomies, ban sperm banks? How serious are environmental and life-quality problems? to read • Kenneth Boulding, 1966. ‘The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth’ online – "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." • Herman Daly & Joshua Farley, 2004. Ecological Economics. Island Press, Washington, D.C. • the journal Ecological Economics • CASSE www.steadystate.org • www.degrowth.net THANK YOU. COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS? [email protected] www.blakealcott.org the ‘growth’ concept • • • • • • • • ‘steady-state’ also = steady rate of growth ! till 1970: plain ol’ economic growth 1972: limits to growth, zero growth 1973: sustainable growth 1974: sustainable quantitative growth: that’s an oxymoron 1977: OK then, qualitative growth 1984: But GDP & resource use grow in lock-step 1989: Let’s decouple growth and environmental damage! 1998-2010: Sorry, it hasn’t happened. sustainable development (no, of course not growth!) 1980, 1987 grain production Index: 1950 = 100 400 300 total production 200 population 100 grain per person 0 1950 1970 1990 2010 difference between total & per person The Limits to Growth: 30-Year Update 2 definitions • Daly Beyond Growth p 31. Growth … refers to an increase in the physical scale of the matter/energy throughput that sustains the economic activities of production and consumption of commodities. • Daly & Farley p 440 “The SSE is the economy viewed as a subsystem in dynamic equilibrium with the parent ecosystem/biosphere that sustains it.” but: right-side interdependencies If population goes down, each can consume more P → A If affluence goes down, population can increase A→P If affluence goes up, there might be fewer births, but also fewer deaths... A → P If I ‘do without’, ceteris paribus others can ‘do with’ A → A If efficiency increases (if T goes down), more can be produced, and P-x-A (total consumption) can rise T → A & T → P the interdependencies graphically AT LEAST NINE SIMULTANEOUS EQUATIONS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF I=f(P,A,T) Population 2) T=f(P) 5) A[ЄPx]=f(A[Є Py]) 1) A=f(P) Affluence 3) P=f(A) Impact Pollution or Depletion 6) P=f(T) 4) T=f(A) 7) A=f(T) Technology 5) MEANS: AFFLUENCE CHANGES OF SOME AFFECT AFFLUENCE OF OTHERS; 8) LIKEWISE FOR POPULATION; AND 9) LIKEWISE FOR TECHNOLOGY. I=PxAxT If natural-resource quotas (I) are not in place, rebounds will cancel out given reductions in P, A, and T. Thus I = f(P, A, T interdependency) (Alcott 2010, JCLPR) But: I↓ → P ↓ is just too brutal, so P work is urgent. Extreme local resource scarcity, starvation: P priority. If P ↓, there is room for A ↑. Isn’t this what we want?