Sunday, January 27, 2008

Beyond Growth.

For a while now i have been wrestling with the idea of economic growth. In general it is said that 'old school' environmentalists are anti-growth. In the US i think most NGO's are reactionary in this regard, they have rejected this stance with some enthusiasm and taken to working with companies.

My thinking on this issue has been influence by Amory Lovins, William McDonugh, Jonathan Porrit, Herman Daly, Donella Meadows and recently by Nordhaus and Schellenburger.

Herman Daly offers the following statement which may allow a reconcilliation;

"To make this case they would have to seperate economic growth (defined as an expansion of GNP) into its qauntitative physical componenet (resource throughput growth) and it's qaulitative , non-physical component (resource efficiency imporvement)."
We can see that growth is not the same as devlopment. Growth is an increase in throughput which can lead to development or collapse due to environmental stress. Development in a zero growth manner is possible by increasing resource efficiency.

So perhaps Monbiot is with Daly in being anti-growth and pro-evelopment. This is where i stand as the laws of nature seem to demand it. It may also be where Nordhaus and Schllenburger are, and Jonathan Porrit. S&N subtitle Break Through 'from the death on environmentalism to the politics of possibility' and argue against the politics of limits. Is this whole debate cooked up, are we all after the same thing? An end to measuring gdp as wealth? Presumably those environmentalists who have thought about it can't be pro-growth in the material throughput sense?

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At 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is certainly more to the quality of life than per capita GDP, but in many parts of the world growth is needed just to raise billions out of poverty. Us Amricans may well not need the third SUV, but those less priveleged certainly need clean water. The current stimulus package designed to induce us to continue to consume more than we produce by borrowing from the have-nots is plain stupid. I have blogged on this myself on


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