Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Economic growth" is a problem, not a solution

"Other studies suggest we are approaching real limits to the availability of numerous basic resources necessary to economic advancement. No technological quick fix is going to change the fact that our finite planet has definite limits. And the more we grow, the more we begin to trip over them, in an increasingly chaotic and interconnected fashion. The energy business and its deleterious impact on the environment are only the most obvious of many examples: The trajectory of the hydrocarbon industry toward costly and carbon-intensive tar-sand extraction and extreme deep-water drilling now makes “sense” from the perspective of a market that has exploited most easily available energy deposits and ignores the consequences of its actions with impunity. Meanwhile, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is pouring more carbon into the air while depleting dwindling aquifers and destroying the very rock formations that some had hoped might be available to sequester excess carbon. The planet cannot sustain this type of growth, but the economy, we are told, commands it.
This is a problem. Our national political debate is so constrained that accelerated growth is presumed to be the necessary precondition for broad prosperity. We’re told the only way to help the 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty is to keep enlarging the pie until everyone has a big enough slice. But is this worth it if we lose Miami in the process? A rising tide used to lift all boats, but now it just drowns our cities. A genuine alternative instead of attempting to press beyond the limits we face would distribute the fruits of our technological and economic prowess away from those at the top and toward the vast majority."

We need a new economic theory.

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