Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Implications Of A Zero Growth Society

The Great Recession has focused our attention on restoring economic growth as a means to creating jobs.  There is a conflict, however, between our efforts to restore growth, and our need to address the dangers from global warming.  This article describes the implications of global population growth, and it argues that our planet cannot provide the standard of living enjoyed today in Australia, for the world's population in the future.  It also argues that greening the economy will only make a small dent in addressing the problems that we face as the planet continues to warm.  Only a zero growth policy can reverse the warming of our planet.  That will require a radical change in society that will be difficult to accept.  The emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, Russia etc.  want the same levels of consumption that the rich nations of the world enjoy today.  That is more than our ecology can provide. Our global consumer culture, and the nature of our economic system is predicated on constant economic growth.  In order to address the problem of global warming we will need a different culture and a different economic system.

Some may argue about the limits to growth described in this article.  Some may also resist the need for the radical changes in the economy that would be required to achieve zero growth.  This article, however, provides a good starting point for a discussion about what would be required if the limits to growth, which are described in this article, are reasonable projections for the future.  Capitalism is based upon the concept of unlimited growth.  Firms sell things to make a profit so that they can make investments which enable them to sell more things.  Firms borrow money in order to make investments which require them to pay interest, on top of the principle that they borrowed.  They must produce output which has more value than the amount that they borrowed in order to prosper, according the analysis provided in this article.  A zero growth society would not be easy to achieve.  On the other hand, starting out with the assumptions in this article forces us to deal with much deeper problems than are common among those concerned about global warming.

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