Thursday, January 15, 2009

The dead end of current economic models...

Here is a short and sweet statement of the futility of current models of economic recovery and growth, from a letter to the Nature editor from Hervé Philippe, a biochemist at the University of Montreal. It mirrors my own sentiment: that talk of 'restoring economic growth' in the absence of ruthless planning to achieve steady state sustainable energy fluxes on this planet is delusional.
...the prosperity [of Western societies] is mainly based on the use of non-renewable resources and therefore is probably spurious...Several hundred million years were needed to form the fossil energy that will be exhausted during a few hundred years. This is roughly equivalent to spending all one's annual income during the first 30 seconds of a year. In particular, the frenzy to automate processes in order to increase competitiveness leads to rapid exhaustion of available resources, for example through over-fishing or degradation of soils....All current growth-based economic models imply massive use of non-renewable resources and environmental degradation. These models are not sustainable, even in the short term....As early as 160 years ago, John Stuart Mill affirmed that "the richest and most prosperous countries would very soon attain the stationary state" (Principles of Political Economy Longmans, 1848). In contrast to that time, when resources were being used up at a rate that was several orders of magnitude slower than today, a phase of economic degrowth is necessary before a stationary state can be reached. It would be a major achievement of economics to achieve such a degrowth without social and political disasters.

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