Zero Growth

I’m about to set off for Bolivia, where I’ll be live blogging the World People’s Conference on Climate Change.  Before leaving, though, I wanted to put up a post on a report by the UK-based New Economics Foundation that I came across last night.  This report, Growth Isn’t Possible, argues that current notions of lifting the majority of the world’s poor out of poverty through incessant economic growth simply won’t work.  We live on a finite planet, and our ballooning rate of consumption is completely unsustainable.

The report begins with a highly arresting image: according to the authors, hamsters double their weight from birth to puberty each week.  If such behavior continued instead of leveling off in maturity, the average hamster would weigh nine billion tonnes on its first birthday.  Its daily intake would be greater than the total amount of annual maize production worldwide.  There is a reason, the authors conclude, that things do not grow indefinitely in nature.

The NEF report is worth checking out because it not only argues against incessant growth, but also advances a series of cogent propositions for how we might achieve zero growth.  This argument, around at least since the time of Herman Daly’s work on steady-state economics, is more important than ever.

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