Questioning “Growthism” goes mainstream

7 05 2008

Economics writer Ross Gittins discusses the arguments against a narrow focus on GDP growth as a marker of progress in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Drawing mainly upon comments from unorthodox economist Clive Hamilton, the article goes on to quote the current leaders of Australia’s and the UK’s conservative parties, who appear to have some sympathy for such a position (although Brendan Nelson’s sentiments have likely changed with time).

We’ve come a long way.  Can the mania for growth be reigned in?

When growth turns into a monster

Ross Gittins

The one thing people like me aren’t allowed to do is question economic growth. To almost all economists, business people and politicians, the need to maximise the growth of the economy is a self-evident truth.

Read the rest here.

 

 

 

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6 responses

12 05 2008
Lis

Yes, I felt a flicker of hope when I read that article too … and then, for the first time I also heard of someone other than me (in Australia) calling for the speed limit to be reduced … a 20% speed reduction on highways means a 20% reduction in emissions …. perhaps as oil gets closer to $200 a barrel it won’t seem like such a mad idea any more.

14 05 2008
Verdurous

G’day Lis,

I guess I’m a little surprised. Surely the relationship between speed and fuel usage can’t be linear. i.e. does a halving of speed = halving of C02 emissions.? If this is true, I need to seriously take my foot off the accelerator!

I’m soon to decide on my family’s vehicles as we are moving interstate – thinking about smart fortwo for me and a Prius for the missus (and as family car), but still thinking.

5 07 2008
Dan Cass

Nice blog.

Its amazing both how much the debate has shifted towards questioning growth and also how much we have lost during the decade of time wasted debating climate science.

Good on you for tracking the debate to see where green economics can slip in.

I think the next stage in the Garnaut debate will be to see whether the unions contribute something constructive to push back on big business. The ACTU needs to get together with some green groups and make some ambit claim to shift things back to the centre (/right!?).

19 07 2008
Verdurous

Thanks Dan,

So far, the unions haven’t been particularly helpful. The fear of major job losses in the blue collar sector is quite evident. Its harder for the unions to envisage the “green collar” jobs that might be created when we reject fossil fuels. Unfortunately the Labor party has been influenced strongly by its ties to unions. People like Martin Ferguson and (in NSW) Michael Costa come to mind. I felt Rudd’s recent green paper was fairly weak.

26 08 2008
Steven Earl Salmony

Dear Verdurous,

Is the global economy a primary precipitant of worldwide ecological degradation because the distinctly human-driven construction’s gigantic size and rampant growth could soon become patently unsustainable in a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planetary home such as Earth provides to the family of humanity?

That is to say, could at least one of the causes of life and the Earth, as we know them, “going to hell in a handbasket” be that the global political economy is a human construction that takes its shape as a perpetual motion machine and is operated as a colossal pyramid scheme? Unfortunately, both the ‘machine’ and the scheme are unsustainable.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, est. 2001
http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/index.php

13 09 2008
Steven Earl Salmony

Chapel Hill(NC)Newspaper
Letters to the Editor
September 9, 2008

Your Letters

Tapestry beautiful but resources finite

My father was in the business of manufacturing textiles. A tapestry is the centerpiece of our family’s living room. Jane Ballard’s Sampler hangs on the far wall. From an early age I learned to behold the beauty found in woven, ornamental fabrics and knitted cloth. But of all the tapestries and “samplers” I have ever seen there is nothing so beautiful, good or true as the tapestry of life to which Brian Lawe refers in his Aug. 3 letter. Each new life adds to tapestry. Mr. Lawe is due thanks.
Perhaps my perspective of the biophysical world we inhabit as relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible is mistaken. That may be so. It would please me so if it turns out that my observations are shown to be fatally flawed and Brian’s perceptions of what is somehow real are altogether proven to be the correct ones. That will be just fine.
Because something is happening that continues to worry me and occasionally to awaken me in the middle of the night, I find myself sending dozens of letters to editors, hundreds of missives into the blogosphere and thousands of e-mails into cyberspace. Always the theme is the same. It is simply this: Earth’s body is finite, its resources are limited, and its ecosystem services capable of irreversible degradation by the huge scale and anticipated growth of human over-consumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the ones we see rampantly overspreading the surface of our planetary home in our time. Earth does not resemble a mother’s teat at which the human species may forever suckle. Despite the assurances of many economists and politicians, Earth is not a cornucopia. No possible way.
The unbridled growth of the human species presents a colossal challenge to the family of humanity. The Earth as a constant, seemingly endless provider of whatsoever human beings desire is a fantasy … a widely shared, consensually validated, distinctly human product of wishful and magical thinking.

— Steven Earl Salmony, Chapel Hill

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