The Ecological Opportunity
Science, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship series
Edited by Blandine Laperche, Nadine Levratto and Dimitri Uzunidis
Chapter 5: Re-greening the Earth While Making Our Economies More Peaceful and Fair
Willem Hoogendyk1 INTRODUCTION In nature, young ecosystems start off with a spurt of quantitative growth. In time, they reach maturity; after this point their growth is mainly qualitative. Back in 1848, the philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that a similar kind of growth should be pursued by human communities and nations. Mature economies, he thought, should seek a ‘stationary state’ to prevent the Earth being stripped of its last remaining beauty. In other words, there would be no further growth of population, nor of physical capital stock (roads, industrial equipment, buildings), but there would still be steady improvements in technology, culture and ethics. The ‘art of getting on’ (getting ahead) would then give way to the ‘art of living’. This is entirely in line with today’s calls for sustainability and for rich nations to reduce their ecological footprint. By 1991 the notion of a ‘steady-state’ economy had already been elaborated by US economist Herman Daly (1974). In rich countries, however, quantitative-growth-as-usual is still very much the rule. It’s perhaps a little greener here and there, and with a few other adjustments, but still with the same old mantra of continued growth. To abandon it, we are assured, would spell disaster. To remain where we are would throw us into immediate reversal. We would be booted out of the global casino. There would be mass unemployment, dwindling national treasuries, poverty all around, and chaos and confusion would reign. Let us listen for a moment to a wise fisherman, whose tribe on...
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