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Befriending Boundaries

by Gary Gardner

One of the most difficult adjustments industrial-country citizens will make in the steady state economy is accepting limits on our activities. Steady state economies will not be the Wild West, beyond the frontier where anything goes. We will learn to live within limits, a difficult reality for peoples accustomed to an open-ended understanding of freedom. In a “full world” where we bump up against the limits of our planet’s resources,

Envisioning a Steady-State Comprehensive Plan

by Dave Rollo

”Economic growth” is commonplace in the daily news. We assume it’s a good thing, that a 2–4 percent increase in GDP is beneficial to all. Likewise, we hear that our communities are growing, and we see a 2–4 percent increase in population as reasonable and benign. Meanwhile, visionary community leaders are busy planning for a steady feed of single-digit annual growth. So we’re in good hands, right?

But what the news reports miss is that any steady rate of growth is an exponential function that contains within it a knowable doubling time.

Two Cheers for Circularity

by Gary Gardner

Here’s some bad news for folks who see a circular economy as a way out of the polycrisis: Trends in global materials use, which recently bent modestly in the direction of circular flows, are flattening once again. The Circle Economy Foundation in Amsterdam reported in January that secondary materials amounted to only 7.2 percent of all materials in the global economy in 2023, down from 9.1 percent in 2018.

Introducing the Luxury Cap Act

by Daniel Wortel-London

Even as nearly a billion people go hungry every day, the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population is purchasing ever-more expensive toys. Yacht sales grew by an average of 22 percent per year between 2014 and 2022. Private jet sales have boomed since the start of the COVID pandemic. The global luxury jewelry market, already huge at $56.5 billion,

Growth Battles in Chittenden County

by Dave Rollo

Vermont takes its name from the French Monts Verts, or Green Mountains, the state’s rolling hills that host maple, birch, and beech forests in the south and spruce and fir in the north. Quaint towns and farms, many retaining their historic structures, are nestled in the mountain valleys. Lakes, streams, and wetlands are plentiful. And farms are everywhere: Vermont consistently ranks as one of the top states in the nation for local food production.

Redesigning Business for Sustainability

by Daniel Wortel-London

Can businesses become sustainable? Certainly—at least in theory. In recent years, new business models have emerged that attempt to place business on an ecologically healthy footing. The doughnut economy, the regenerative economy, sufficiency enterprises, and postgrowth and degrowth businesses: These and other experiments represent ways of doing business that not only create customer and firm value, but address social and environmental needs as well. 

How to Avoid the Scarcity Scare

by Gary Gardner

In congressional testimony last November, Isabel Munilla, an official from the Department of Energy, gave an alarming assessment of U.S. reliance on foreign minerals. For 31 of 50 critical minerals, she warned,”…the U.S. relies on other countries for more than 50 percent of our requirements…Our reliance on non-allied foreign sources for these materials is neither sustainable nor secure.” Munilla employed what we might call the “scarcity scare”—the panic that supplies of critical minerals may be insufficient for all nations to participate in the transition to clean,

Conservative Idaho: Poised to Resist Sprawl?

by Dave Rollo

The USA, Canada, and other countries have long recognized sprawl as a vexing dimension of urban development. Especially challenging is the difficulty creating the public consensus needed for political and planning responses to the problem.

But growing numbers of residents today are expressing their distaste for sprawling approaches to development and are primed to resist it. Perhaps surprisingly, sprawl afflicts a U.S. state better known for its natural beauty and its potatoes: Idaho.

It’s Time to Ban Earth-Damaging Ads

by Daniel Wortel-London

Advertising works. A recent study by the Advertising Association finds that every dollar of ad spending drives up sales by $21. Ads get us to recognize brands and hum jingles even if we are annoyed by pop-ups. They are particularly effective in driving the kind of unsustainable consumption that is destroying our planet.

This begs a question: Should advertising be limited for the sake of the environment?

Approaching the Energy Cliff

by Dave Rollo

Warn anyone in the USA about the coming energy crisis and you’re likely to see eyes roll. “What energy crisis? That was half a century ago! Markets and technology won. Today we’re back among the top oil suppliers!”

All true, but the response gives a false sense of security that has policymakers and publics sleepwalking toward a cliff. An energy crisis is likely ahead, no matter our rank (currently third) among oil supplying nations.