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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Remember Limits to Growth?

Remember this? Well despite the passing of time the basic analysis of the Limits to Growth report from the early 1970s is still as valid as ever...we just have more science, data and evidence to back it up.
While the Club of Rome and the green movement, parties, thinkers and activists it mobilised still hold the main hypothesis of the LTG report - namely it is biophysically/themodynamically/ecologically impossible (that means no fictional 'free market' can overcome these non-negotiable limits - for any orthodox economists out there the limiting factors on the economy is energy not money) - some extremely eloquent new thinkers and movements have emerged in the past decade. Alongside movements such as Transition Towns, of which I am a (not very active) member and also sometime observer, I have been drawn to authors such as James Howard Kunstler and Richard Heinberg. Heinberg in a recent article has noted that
The "normal" late-20th century economy of seemingly endless growth actually emerged from an aberrant set of conditions that cannot be perpetuated. That "normal" is gone. One way or another, a "new normal" will emerge to replace it. Can we build a different, more sustainable economy to replace the one now in tatters? Let's be clear: I believe we are in for some very hard times. The transitional period on our way toward a post-growth, equilibrium economy will prove to be the most challenging time any of us has ever lived through. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can survive this collective journey, and that if we make sound choices as families and communities, life can actually be better for us in the decades ahead than it was during the heady days of seemingly endless economic expansion.
I like the idea of a 'new normal', though not the sentiment that we will /may suffer before we get to it, and think this is perhaps as good a way of describing the alternative infrastructure, lifestyle, economy, economic thinking that greens like me have been banging on about for years.
Now that I think of it, my Masters dissertation way back in 1990 was on Limits to Growth...wonder where it is?


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