These are the CASSE blog articles by Gary Gardner.


Recipe for Obesity: Ultraprocessed Foods and Economic Growth

by Gary Gardner

People of a certain age will remember the tagline from the Lay’s potato chip jingle: “No one can eat just one!” Lay’s’ marketing campaign ran successfully for years because it carried a deep truth: The chips are eminently enjoyable, even addictive. Eating them involves a nonstop cycle—hand to bag to mouth—that repeats until the bag holds only air. At least that’s been my Lay’s experience.

The chips’ addictive character did not emerge from Lay’s skill in finding exceptionally tasty potatoes.


Sortition for a Steady State Economy?

by Gary Gardner

In my frustration over humanity’s sluggish response to the urgent issues of our time, I find a bit of hope in an idea championed by the philosopher John Rawls. He had a simple and appealing suggestion for shifting people’s preferences in the direction of the common good.

Rawls proposed that anyone deliberating about public matters–legislators, officials, citizens, and others–start from behind a “veil of ignorance,” that hides from them their place in society.


Climate Engineering: Doubling Down on Bad Habits

by Gary Gardner

Social psychologists tell us it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. In my experience that’s only half true. Sixty-six days to form a good habit, yes, but about 66 hours to form a bad one. If I reach for a donut at breakfast, then do the same the next two days, I seal the deal and establish a habit of bad eating.


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,


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.


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,


Time to Make a Material Difference

by Gary Gardner

Well, COP 28 ended yesterday with (seeming) agreement to (sort of) walk down the fossil fuel ladder toward a (not for a while) sustainable future. Geez! It’s almost 2024, more than half a century since Limits to Growth was published, and the human family is in a pouting mood. Why is it like pulling teeth to do the right thing, sustainability-wise? Why are we sleepwalking toward a cliff?


A New Papal Statement Hits—and Misses—the Mark

by Gary Gardner

Religious groups have long been players in movements to create a better world, from the anti-apartheid and civil rights movements to initiatives on arms reduction, debt forgiveness, and divestment from fossil fuels. It makes sense that they are involved in the sustainability movement as well. Sustainability, including the effort to create a steady state economy, requires a shift in one’s worldview and values,


Reflections on Thirty Years of Worldwatching

Gary Gardner

It’s been a fascinating experience watching the human family’s response to the emerging sustainability challenges of the past 30 years. Over a career writing on the topic, largely at the Worldwatch Institute, I marveled at the ingenuity displayed by many changemakers. I also bemoaned the blindness and stubborn resistance to change apparent in many sluggards. Here I reflect on sustainability’s ups and downs over three decades.

My perspective is captured well in the thoughts of 45 climate scientists interviewed recently by The Guardian.


Which Future?

by Gary Gardner

One of the more puzzling features of modern life is the starkly contrasting visions of humanity’s near-term future. Watch thirty minutes of commercial-filled TV and you get a cheery sense that all is well in the world. A BMW, an anti-depressant, or a Caribbean vacation—these will ensure ever greater happiness.

At the same time, a 2021 poll in ten countries found that four in ten young people are hesitant to have children because of the climate crisis.