Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 6: Limits to Growth – Synthesis
The human enterprise relies on many goods and services from nature to sustain the entire demand for food, fuels, water, medicine, ﬁbre and electricity. Human vulnerability to the state of the environment depends directly upon the ability of the environment to supply the essential basic needs for humans, as well as on the economic and social capability of the individual to cope with environmental degradation. (United Nations Environment Programme, 2007) It is convenient for expositional purposes to distinguish among sources, sinks and services but we should not overlook the fact that they are intimately connected. The Western intellectual tradition places great emphasis on reductionism: breaking complicated problems into their parts in the belief that if we understand the parts we will understand the bigger problems. Often this works well but not always. The specialization of human knowledge has led to the creation of numerous distinct academic disciplines, each with its own way of seeing the world, identifying issues, describing and analysing them, and reaching conclusions. Even within the broad groupings of natural science, social science, and the humanities, there are major diﬀerences in the way their practitioners think and work. The rise of interdisciplinary studies in Western universities that began in the 1960s can be understood as a response to the limitations of reductionism, though not an entirely satisfactory one, at least not yet. We have to ﬁnd a way of considering sources, sinks and services together if we are to grasp the big picture of the dependence of...
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