The steady-state economy and economic degrowth

Report
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?

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