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Limits to Wealth = Limits to Growth

by Daniel Wortel-London

Inequality threatens people and planet alike. Billions struggle to make ends meet while a tiny minority grows fabulously wealthy. At the same time, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy and the waste they generate takes an enormous environmental toll. The intertwining of social and environmental damage suggests that standard fixes for inequality are inadequate.

Herman Daly thought that waste from the wealthy could not be ended through redistributive taxation alone.

Food: Abundant for How Long?

by Gary Gardner

Global food production today is cornucopian: More food, of greater diversity, is available to more people in more places than at any time in human history. At the same time, this food abundance has a dark underbelly.  Some 828 million people—nearly ten percent of the human family—are chronically hungry, and two billion people lack critical micronutrients such as Vitamin A and iron. This juxtaposition of increasing abundance and chronic scarcity might suggest that ending hunger simply requires extending 20th century agricultural success to the entire human family.

Using GDP to Estimate the Limits to Growth

by Brian Czech

The merits and proper uses of GDP—gross domestic product—have been debated with increasing frequency and intensity in recent years. Neoclassical economists continue to view a growing GDP as the sign of economic success and even social health. Conversely, ecologists who have studied the issue view a growing GDP as an alarming indicator of unsustainability at this point in history.

Meanwhile, a growing number of individuals and organizations in the post-growth community have proposed to eliminate GDP altogether,

Prospecting for a Steady State in North America

by Gregory M. Mikkelson

In late summer of 2001 I moved from the USA to Canada, where my rose-colored glasses paradoxically made the grass look even greener. While President Bush had just reneged on the Kyoto Protocol, Prime Minister Chrétien stood by it, having been one of the first to sign. Two years later Chrétien withstood the pressure to join Bush’s disastrous war against Iraq.

Whose Taps Will Go Dry First?

by Gary Gardner

Experts have warned for decades of potential water scarcity in many regions, but over the past decade the warnings have nearly morphed into large-scale catastrophes. In 2014, water in reservoirs supplying Sao Paulo, Brazil dropped to just five percent of capacity, and residents found themselves on the threshold of severe shortages. In 2017, the mayor of Cape Town warned residents of the impending arrival of “Day Zero,” when critically low reservoir levels would trigger a shutoff of city taps and lead to queues of residents waiting for water at standpipes.

Selling the Steady State Economy

by Gary Gardner

The looks I get are familiar at this point: the blank stare screaming What do you mean, a no-growth economy? The frown of doubt that silently demands, Are you crazy? This is how skepticism about degrowth and steady-state economics manifests in my own life.

The work of a steady-state proponent is not for the faint of heart, to be sure. Steady state economies are sorely needed today but are far from being widely understood,

“I Know You’re Malthusian, But What Am I?”

by John Mirisch

Times are evidently rough for our natalist, growthmaniac friends.

More people than ever are questioning their agenda of increasing the planet’s population beyond the current 8 billion people (double the level of less than fifty years ago) in the name of “progress” and profit. Yet the growthmaniacs’ only response to anyone who links human population and ecological overshoot is to scream “Malthus!” at the top of their lungs (although some Marvel fanboy growthmaniacs have been known to respond “Thanos!” instead).

A Steady State Sustains All Boats

by Gregory M. Mikkelson

An important recent article on resource use and its environmental impacts starts from the premise that “the planet’s resources and ecosystems are a commons, and… all people are entitled to an equal, sustainable share.” Alas, the world today deviates wildly from this norm. Indeed, inequality—of resource use, but also of income and wealth—is extremely high today and is actually worsened by economic growth. What’s more, it is bad for our politics,

Even AI Understands Limits to Growth

by Cole Thompson

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is attracting great attention as working AI systems become accessible to the public. The AI claim is that it can digest the mass of knowledge that humanity has made public, then perform cognitive tasks with that knowledge or answer questions with speed and accuracy. This has many implications, some potentially worrisome. But when AI works well, it can serve up some interesting “truths.”

While AI does not generate authoritative or definitive information—you wouldn’t bet your savings on its output—my sense is that its findings often deserve a hearing.

A “Final Warning” on Climate

by Gary Gardner

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued what Greenpeace International called the “final warning” in the global effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. After three decades of increasingly insistent wake-up calls, the Panel laid out the sobering reality: Meeting the temperature goal set by the global community in 2015 is impossible without an immediate response, “a quantum leap in climate action,” in the words of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.