The growth myth: perpetual growth is unrealistic

Posted: December 14, 2008 in reflections, society
Tags: , ,

A few days ago I posted a lecture by Albert Bartlett, in which he demonstrated that the kind of growth we seem to uncritically accept (from population to economic to wealth growth) is totally unrealistic from an arithmetic point of view because it’s exponential nature simply would wipe out us and  the planet as we know it. John L. Farrands (1921-1996), engineer and, like Bartlett, also a physicist  by background as well as former Australian Chief Defence Scientist and Head of the Department of Science, shared Bartlett’s concerns about population growth in his 1993 book Don’t Panic, Panic: the use and abuse of science to create fear. And here is another proponent of low or zero growth: Peter Victor. In his book “Managing Growth – Slower by Design, Not Disaster”, Victor (according to his website),

Paperback Template.ai“challenges the priority that rich countries continue to give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, on the disconnect between higher incomes and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet other key economic, social and environmental policy objectives.

Shortly after World War II, economic growth became the paramount economic policy objective in most countries, a position that it maintains today. This book presents three arguments on why rich countries should turn away from economic growth as the primary policy objective and pursue more specific objectives that enhance well-being. The author contends that continued economic growth worldwide is unrealistic due to environmental and resource constraints. If rich countries continue to push growth, poorer countries where the benefits are more evident, will lag. Rising incomes increase happiness and well-being only up to a level that has since been surpassed in rich countries. Moreover, economic growth has not brought full employment, eliminated poverty or reduced the burden of the economy on the environment. By combining a systems approach with more conventional economic analysis, Peter Victor provides new insights into a pressing issue at the frontier of ecological economics in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.”

There are four simulation models described and used in Victor’s book; they can be downloaded and tried by following the links listed here.

LowGrow– a simulation model of the Canadian economy for exploring low and no growth scenarios.

LowGrow 2.0 is described and used in chapter 10 of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, Not Disaster. To view the model you must download the free ISEE player (PC or Mac version) by clicking here and following the directions.

LowGrow 2.0 can be viewed on either PC or Mac (just download the appropriate ISEE Player above). To download LowGrow as a ZIP file click here: LowGrow 2.0.zip. The zip file will download to your desktop. Open the model using the ISEE player.

HappyGrow – a simulation model showing the limited contribution that consumption for status makes to well-being.

HappyGrow is described and used in chapter 8 of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design not Disaster. To view the model you must download the free ISEE player (PC or Mac version) by clicking here and following the directions.

HappyGrow can be viewed on either PC or Mac (just download the appropriate ISEE Player above). To download HappyGrow as a ZIP file click here: HappyGrow.zip. The zip file will download to your desktop. Open the model using the ISEE player.

PeakOila simulation model of energy and economic scenarios in the USA where there is incontrovertible evidence that the production of oil from conventional sources peaked many years ago.

PeakOil is described and used in chapter 4 of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design not Disaster. To view the model you must download the free ISEE player (PC or Mac version) by clicking here and following the directions.

PeakOil can be viewed on either PC or Mac (just download the appropriate ISEE Player above). To download PeakOil as a ZIP file click here: PeakOil.zip. The zip file will download to your desktop. Open the model using the ISEE player.

MakeRoom – a simulation model for examining the scope of changes required in high income and medium and low income countries required to meet any specified level of reduction in CO2 emissions.

MakeRoom is described and used in chapter 7 of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design not Disaster. To view the model you must download the free ISEE player (PC or Mac version) by clicking here and following the directions.

MakeRoom can be viewed on either PC or Mac (just download the appropriate ISEE Player above). To download MakingRoom as a ZIP file click here: MakeRoom.zip. The zip file will download to your desktop. Open the model using the ISEE player.

I haven’t played with them yet, but will do that soon and maybe comment on them afterwards. So far though it sounds like a worthwhile exercise to do.

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