I found an interesting little article at The Oil Drum today. The author examines the whole notion of 'sustainability' and makes some very interesting points. Every now and then someone comes out and makes the observation that growth and sustainability are mutually exclusive. But growth is so ingrained in economics, perhaps even our psyches, that the notion of a steady state (or no growth) economy seems to be unthinkable. All of the measures by which we gauge economic health are based on increases over some base line. All of our political debates seem to be centered around the notion of 'more' of something for whatever groups want more. Some key points to note from the article: 1) If people don't curb population growth and/or consumption growth, Nature will do it for us. And Nature is a brutal bitch. 2) The main source of problems are solutions. I would add my own observation on the role of technology here. Technology basically increases the carrying capacity. However, please note the laws that deal with concerted efforts to increase either the resource or the efforts to clean up the pollution caused by the extraction, transport, or use of a resource: small increases in population wipe out the benefits of those efforts. Further, if the technology fails, the results are likely to be catastrophic. Famine, drought, and crop failure put more people at risk because there are more people thanks to technologies that allowed the population to grow (i.e., they increased the carrying capacity).
Well, just as I remark on the dearth of economic treatises on the possibility of a no-growth economy I find one, again, thanks to The Oil Drum. As I read this my main thought was that it will be extremely difficult to come up with a notion of no-growth prosperity that can replace consumerism which has been totally imbued with the notion of more. Our jobs give little satisfaction beyond the money which we turn into as many things as possible the winner being the one who has the most of the most expensive toys. Those of us who don't make enough to engage in this race are left questioning our worth because we just can't begin to measure up to the standard.
The Oil Drum has had a larger than usual number of interesting articles this morning. This one has a number of interesting aspects to it. A recent recurring conversation over our morning coffee has been how we seem to have reverted in many ways to our life styles three or more decades ago. We don't eat out much and almost never at McDonalds or other such fast food outlets. We have cut out upwards of 80% of prepared foods. We are starting to grow some of our own during the summer and freezing more locally grown foods. The observation on the effects of our modern system of working for wages are well take. We have made parallel observations on our own. It is ironic how seldom mainstream 'efforts' to combat obesity and diabetes fails to make some of these connections or to really acknowledge how our lives have changed in just the last 70-100 years.