Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 5: Limits to Growth – Sinks and Services
ecosystem services provide an important portion of the total contribution to human welfare on this planet. We must begin to give the natural capital stock that produces these services adequate weight in the decision-making process otherwise current and continued future welfare may drastically suﬀer. (Costanza et al., 1997) In the last chapter, we saw that concerns about the adequacy of sources of materials and energy to support global economic growth have a long history of claims and counter claims. Possibilities for decoupling growth from material and energy inputs exist but what evidence there is suggests that it will have to be far more eﬀective in the future than it has been in the past if total requirements are to decline while more than 9 billion people strive for economic growth. Oil is right in the centre of the debate about sources and their limits. The prodigious demand for oil imports by the USA, having long surpassed the peak of its own domestic oil production, puts in sharp relief the challenge of an energy transition in the world’s largest economy. Success or failure in the USA will have enormous ramiﬁcations for us all. In this chapter, we look at what becomes of the materials and energy after they have been discharged as wastes and at the adequacy of the environment to absorb them. 5.1 SINKS What goes into an economy must come out eventually. Such is the nature of economies as open systems. The vast quantities of wastes...
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