Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 4: Limits to Growth – Sources
comprehensive and independent scientiﬁc investigations provide compelling evidence that the growth of the global economy is not sustainable because it consumes many of the environmental services that underpin the production of goods and services. (Cleveland 2003) Economies are open systems that rely on the natural environment to supply materials and energy and to provide for their disposal. All the material and energy that is extracted from the environment is eventually disposed of as waste, some almost immediately and some after many years, but all eventually, except perhaps for some precious metals and gem stones which stay in the economy indeﬁnitely. Historically these material and energy ﬂows have increased with economic growth. Now the ﬂows are so large that there are concerns over future supplies of resources such as oil, concerns over the impacts that waste energy and material are having on the environment, and concerns that life-support and amenity services provided by the environment are being damaged beyond repair. These concerns are not new and some that have been voiced before have not materialized, at least to the extent anticipated. Why is this? Humans are ingenious and adaptable. New technologies, the substitution of more plentiful materials for scarce ones, a shift away from goods to services, all help explain why forecasts of future resource shortages and environmental decline have not always been borne out. Moreover this is no accident. It is what we might expect from price adjustments and enlightened government policies without which circumstances that are more...
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