Processes, Complexities and Ecological Similarities
Chapter 1: The role of competition and diversity in economic performance: an overview
Economics studies the comparative influence of alternative methods of managing or administering the use of resources on scarcity (Lange, 1945, p. 19). This is an important problem because human desires for commodities exceed the ability of the available resources to satisfy these desires, and in some cases, lack of supply of commodities results in poverty. If methods can be found that will improve the management of the use of resources, human welfare can be increased and, at the same time, the scope for conserving more resources, including natural environments, expands. However, this bonus, made possible by improved economic performance, could be used entirely to increase material consumption and accelerate resource use and environmental deterioration (Tisdell, 2001). Conservation of resources is then a casualty of increased economic performance. Consequently, future generations can be impoverished by increased future scarcity of resources. Significant reductions in the quality and quantity of resources, particularly natural resources, can occur as a result of economic growth. This prospect has been the subject of considerable modern debate about the sustainability of economic growth and development (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987; Tisdell, 2005, chs 11 and 12; 2009, ch. 7). Societies also have the option when their economic performance improves for their citizens to take more time for leisure and relaxation. Improved economic performance makes it possible (within limits) for a society to increase its material consumption, its amount of time for leisure, and to engage in more resource conservation than would otherwise occur. However, for structural reasons, societies may fail to adopt this option: economic growth may accelerate, natural resources may be utilized at an accelerating rate and there may be little or no increase in the amount and quality of leisure time, as for example pointed out by Tisdell (1999, ch. 6).
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