Monday, September 7, 2009

Steady-State Economy and Population

A movement has been quietly gaining momentum. More and more people are recognizing that a continuously growing economy is no longer feasible in this finite world. The worldwide economy has grown so immense that we are now pushing against the very boundaries of nature. Peak oil, depleting fisheries, water shortages and food riots are wake-up calls. It’s insanity, suicide, to proceed like this.

Last week, Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the most distinguished and respected biologists in the world, joined an elite and respected group of thinkers in signing the position on economic growth developed by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. The statement points out the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection and proposes a steady state economy as an alternative. A steady-state economy aims for stability in population and consumption of energy and materials -- it is a truly green economy that meets people's needs without undermining the life-support systems of the planet.

Other distinguished scientists who share this view include David Suzuki (biology, media), Herman Daly (economics), Vandana Shiva (agriculture), Wendell Berry (agriculture), Chris Matthews (media), and Douglas Tompkins (business). These individuals believe that a steady-state economy is necessary to conserve planetary resources and ensure well being for future generations.

A vital and necessary part of a steady-state economy is a steady-state population. The former is not possible without the latter; it’s impossible. So we have some of the world’s most intelligent people advocating a steady-state population. Yet politicians, religious leaders and many others pay no heed. The topic of population, crucial as it is, is not even on the agenda. If we want to save the future, it’s time we paid heed.


Darshan Chande said...

A very good point. I am glad someone wrote about this. I believe the whole development exercise is futile. For centuries the humankind has been running behind development, but all they have managed is to worsen the condition of life and the planet altogether. Is this called development? Then development is an insult to the creator, the God. said...

If only some way could be found to sensibly and responsibly legislate limitations on the current colossal scale and patently unsustainable growth rate of unbridled human greediness, that could make a difference that makes a difference.

On the other hand, if rampant person-centered greed continues to rule the human world absolutely as it does so evidently in our time, then the future looks bleak for the children’s wellbeing, biodiversity, life as we know it, and coming generations.

Perhaps necessary human behavior change toward sharing and sustainable living is in the offing.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001 said...

"Population stabilization" might be chosen as a shibboleth of humanity.

richardglover said...

The point is, there is no God.
We are a hugely successful part of the life on our planet and that success is now counter productive to the whole of life on the planet.
There is no Saviour. We must accept our responsibility for the changes to the planet if we perceive them to be detrimental to our well being.
It is a question of morality. How do we want our world to be for future generations?
The last century saw horrendous struggles and heady dreams, which we now need to reflect on and face the challenge of a sober a mankind that looks to appreciate the whole of life on earth. To restore and enhance the beauty of the planet until such time that mankind can safely expand in numbers again.
It calls for a new mindset, new political thinking and sustainable economics. Brave compassionate but realistic leadership. Leadership that moves the world on, not from a position of denial but a true realisation of our role on earth.
A universal message is required that the best thing you can give your child(ren) is no more siblings. said...

Does the human community (and its representatives to the Climate Summit in Copenhagen) find itself in the distinctly difficult predicament of being able to do so very little to address the astonishingly big threats to human wellbeing and environmental health that are looming on the horizon before humanity?

It appears as if the adoption of politically convenient half measures and paltry economically expedient proposals could end up making bad matters even worse. Big problems require binding commitments and bold action.

Are our noticeably spectacular, recent failures to reasonably and sensibly confront the human-induced global challenges already visible to the human family in the offing not the fully expected, all-too-human-driven result of arrogance and greed ruling.........and ruling in the world so absolutely because these pernicious traits are dominant in many too many leaders in our time?

After 8 long dark years of avoidance, denial and extreme foolhardiness, perhaps new leadership will give rise to the occurrence of necessary change before it is too late for human-forced change to make a difference. Before nature takes its inexorable course, whatever that may be.

At least consider accepting more fully human limits to the unbridled growth of global overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities (as well as Earth's biophysical limitations) and then make the choice of behaving accordingly. said...

Somehow there has got to be something amiss when a tiny minority of millions of people who possess virtually everything the world has to offer are still malcontented, demanding their 'inalienable rights' to more, while the vast majority of billions of less fortunate people with nothing more than enough food, clothing and shelter for immediate survival wait for the spoils of others' wanton greediness to trickle down to them. How is this regime connected to (let alone a realization of) democratic principles and practices, justice that is just, fairness and equity?

jm said...

It seems NO ONE wants to discuss this! It is such a touchy issue, especially in the US. My father used to talk about overpopulation back in the 60's; my brothers and i decided to refrain from having children which was not the easiest of decisions. These kind of choices are not discussed in "polite" conversation, in fact it's almost seen as an attack on personal and collective freedoms. Or if you do mention this, either "nazi" or "racist" or communist China comes to mind in many instances where i've brought up the topic. I've talked to people in environmental groups who are absolutely horrified at the mention of this discussion. My personal feeling is that overpopulation is the root of almost every problem facing this planet; i know some would agree, but most either don't or think that there's nothing that can be done about it. I was glad to find your blog, and will continue to search for more discussions like this. It absolutely needs to be discussed and hopefully is not too late already.