Kaveh Moravej

Economic De-Growth

In yet another warning highlighting the incompatibility of modern economic theories and ecology, researcher Max Koch has together with a colleague found that economic development is closely linked to greater greenhouse gas emissions despite increased focus on renewable energy sources.

In the study of 138 countries, two of the key findings are that:

- Social inclusion and quality of life increases with economic development.

- Ecological sustainability worsens with economic development.

More interestingly, they suggest a deliberate de-prioritisation of economic growth as a policy objective, because of the urgent need to reduce emissions globally. This means economic de-growth should be seriously considered – that is, a deliberate de-prioritisation of economic growth as a policy objective.

What a great deal of fantastical optimism it would take to imagine any state representative, state-dependent economist or, member of an international financial institution, stepping up to a podium to pronounce an objective of economic de-growth:

“My fellow men and women, we have finally pulled our heads out of the sand, long enough to realise that unlimited economic growth is not possible on a finite planet. Continuously increasing production and consumption of goods and services is in no way environmentally sustainable, for an economy and a people that forever chases more is destined to fail. All of the inputs to an economy come from the environment, and all of the wastes produced by it return to the environment. As the economy grows, it requires more resources and discharges more wastes. Since we live on a finite planet with limited resources, it is not possible for the economy to grow forever.

Furthermore, the appropriation of materials, energy, and land for human activity has profoundly impacted ecosystems and reduced the space available for non-human species, leading to species extinctions and biodiversity loss. We are in a state of 'global ecological overshoot'. We are harvesting resources like forests and fish faster than they can be regenerated, and producing wastes faster than they can be absorbed. The result is the steady erosion of the stock of natural resources and the supply of ecosystem services upon which our economies and societies ultimately depend.*

Given this dire state of affairs, we have concluded that ecologically, the wisest course of action we can now take is to curb growth and put all of our efforts into considering alternative approaches that will pull us away from this Sword of Damocles which now hangs over our heads. I have proposed that...hello? Why is my microphone not working?"

Burly men in black suits, sunglasses and earpieces charge onto the stage, grab the poor fellow and yank him away as he protests this gross mistreatment. Armed reinforcements arrive, taser him and pull a straitjacket over his convulsing body. They wheel him off on a stretcher as the broadcast is interrupted by yet another talent show in which plucky members of the public can be subjected to close scrutiny by third-rate celebrities.

*Arguments extracted from Enough is Enough: Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources