Policies for a Post-Growth Economy


9 August 2017
By Dr Samuel Alexander for Dick Smith Fair Go.

This short article outlines a range of bold policy interventions that would be required to produce a stable and flourishing post-growth economy. I acknowledge that most people do not recognise the need for a post-growth economy yet, and therefore would reject these policy proposals as unacceptable or unnecessary. But as the limits to growth tighten their grip on economies in coming years and decades, the debate will inevitably evolve, and the question will not be whether a post-growth economy is required, but rather how to create one – by design rather than disaster.

A post-growth economy will require, among other things, developing new macroeconomic policies and institutions, confronting the population challenge, and culturally embracing post-consumerist lifestyles of material sufficiency. The following proposals are not intended to be comprehensive, and they are not presented as a blueprint that could be applied independent of context. Instead, the review simply outlines a range of key issues that would need to be addressed in any ‘top down’ transition to a post-growth economy (even if the drivers for change must come ‘from below’, at the grassroots level).

  1. Explicit adoption of post-growth measures of progress: In order to transcend the growth model, the first thing needed is to adopt better and more nuanced measures of progress than GDP (Stiglitz, Sen, and Fitoussi, 2010). What we measure, and how we measure it, matters. It is now widely recognised that GDP is a deeply flawed measure of societal progress, yet it remains the dominant way to assess politico-economic success. Accordingly, a politics and economics ‘beyond growth’ must begin by explicitly adopting some post-growth measure of progress, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Although it is not a perfect metric, the GPI takes into account a wide range of social, economic, and environmental factors that GDP ignores, thus representing a vast improvement over GDP. Public understanding of and support for such post-growth accounting systems would open up political space for political parties to defend policy and institutional changes – such as those outlined below – which would genuinely improve social wellbeing and enhance ecological conditions, even if these would not maximise growth in GDP. If we do not measure progress accurately, we cannot expect to progress.
  2. Reduce overconsumption via diminishing ‘resource caps’: One of the defining problems with the growth paradigm is that the developed nations now have resource and energy demands that could not possibly be universalised to all nations. The quantitative ‘scale’ of our economies is grossly overblown. It follows that any transition to a just and sustainable world requires the developed nations to stop overconsuming the world’s scarce resources and reduce resource and energy demands significantly. Although in theory efficiency gains in production provide one pathway to reduced demand, the reality is that within a growth economy, efficiency gains tend to be reinvested in more growth and consumption, rather than reducing impact. In order to contain this well documented phenomenon, a post-growth economy would need to introduce diminishing resource caps – that is, well defined limits to resource consumption – to ensure that efficiency gains are directed into reducing overall resource consumption, not directed into more growth. Formulating a workable policy in this domain would require, among other things, a highly sophisticated and detailed scientific accounting of resource stocks and flows of the economy. But the first step is simply to recognise that, in the developed nations, diminishing resource caps are a necessary part of achieving the decline in resource consumption that is required for justice and sustainability.
  3. Working hour reductions: One obvious implication of diminishing resource caps is that a lot less resource-intensive producing and consuming will take place in a post-growth economy. That will almost certainly mean reduced GDP, although there is still great scope for qualitative growth (technological innovation, efficiency improvements, and improved wellbeing). But what implications will a contracting economy have for employment? Growth in GDP is often defended on the grounds that it is required to keep unemployment at manageable levels. If a nation gives up the pursuit of GDP, therefore, it must maintain employment via some other means. Restructuring the labour market is essential for the stability of any post­-growth economy. Could we work less but live better? By reducing the average working week to, say, 28 hours, a post-growth economy would share the available work amongst the working population, thereby minimising or eliminating unemployment even in a non-growing or contracting economy, while at the same time increasing social wellbeing by reducing overwork (Coote and Franklin, 2013). The aim would be to systematically exchange superfluous consumption for increased free time, which would also bring environmental benefits.
  4. Rethink budget spending for a post-growth transition: Governments are the most significant player in any economy and have the most spending power. Accordingly, if governments decide to take the limits to growth seriously this will require a fundamental rethink of how public funds are invested and spent. Broadly speaking, within a post-growth paradigm public spending would not aim to facilitate sustained GDP growth but instead support the projects and infrastructure needed to support a swift transition to a post-growth economy. This would include huge divestment from the fossil fuel economy and a co-relative reinvestment in renewable energy systems (see next section). But it would also require huge investment in other forms of ‘green’ infrastructure. Currently, many people find themselves ‘locked in’ to high-impact lifestyles due to the structures within which they live their lives (Sanne, 2002). To provide one example: it is very difficult to stop driving a private motor vehicle if there is poor public transport and insufficient bike lanes. Change the infrastructure, however, and new, low-impact lifestyles implied by a post-growth economy would be more easily embraced. Greening infrastructure will therefore require a significant revision of government expenditure.
  5. Renewable energy: In anticipation of the foreseeable stagnation and eventual decline of fossil fuel supplies, and recognising the grave dangers presented by climate change, a post-growth economy would need to transition swiftly to renewable energy and more efficient energy systems and practices. This provides a hugely promising space to meaningfully employ large segments of the population as the fossil fuel economy enters terminal decline. But just as important as ‘greening’ the supply of energy is the challenge (too often neglected) of reducing energy demand. After all, it will be much easier to transition to 100% renewable energy if energy use is significantly reduced through behavioural changes, reduced production and consumption, and more efficient appliances. Indeed, the extremely tight and fast diminishing carbon budget for a safe climate now makes this ‘demand side’ response a necessity (Anderson, 2013; Anderson, 2015), yet the significantly reduced energy demand required for a safe climate is incompatible with the growth model, because energy is what drives economic growth (see Ayres and Warr, 2009). Accordingly, a post-growth politics would initiate a transition to 100% renewable energy financed in part by a strong carbon tax, and undertake a public education campaign to facilitate reduced energy demand.
  6. Banking and finance reform: Currently, our systems of banking and finance essentially have a ‘growth imperative’ built into their structures. Money is loaned into existence by private banks as interest-bearing debt, and in order to pay back that debt plus the interest, this requires an expansion of the money supply (Trainer, 2011). Furthermore, there is so much public and private debt today that the only way it could be paid back is via decades of continued GDP growth. This type of banking system requires growth for stability and yet limitless economic growth is the driving force behind the environmental crisis. In order to move toward a stable, post-growth economy, part of the institutional restructuring required involves deep reform of banking and finance systems. This is a complex transition that could take various forms, but at base it would require the state taking responsibility for creating banking and finance systems that do not require growth for stability, and strictly regulating these systems to ensure equity.
  7. Population policies: As population grows, more resources are required to provide for the basic material needs of humanity (food, clothing, shelter, etc.), increasing our demands on an already overburdened planet. It is absolutely imperative that nations around the world unite to confront the population challenge directly, rather than just assuming that the problem will be solved when the developing world gets rich. Population policies will inevitably be controversial but the world needs bold and equitable leadership on this issue. Research suggests that the world is facing a population of around 9.5 billion by mid-century and 11 billion by the end of this century (Gerland et al, 2014), which would be utterly catastrophic from both social and environmental perspectives. As Paul Ehrlich famously noted, ‘whatever problem you’re interested in, you’re not going to solve it unless you also solve the population problem.’
  8. Reimagining the good life beyond consumer culture: Despite the environmental necessity of population stabilisation and eventual decline, the fact remains that currently there are 7.5 billion people on earth, all of whom have the right to the material conditions needed to live a full and dignified human life. Nevertheless, if the global economy is to raise the material living standards of the great multitudes currently living in destitution, this is likely to put further pressure on global ecosystems. Therefore, in order to leave some ‘ecological room’ for the poorest people to develop their economic capacities in some form, high-impact consumer lifestyles must be swiftly transcended. There is no conceivable way that seven billion people, let alone eleven billion, could exist sustainably on Earth living consumerist lifestyles. Globalising affluence, quite simply, would be ecologically catastrophic. Accordingly, members of the global consumer class need to reimagine the good life beyond consumer culture and develop new conceptions of human flourishing based on sufficiency, moderation, frugality, and non-materialistic sources of meaning and satisfaction.
  9. Distributive justice: Environmental concerns cannot be isolated from social justice concerns. The conventional path to poverty alleviation is via the strategy of GDP growth, on the assumption that ‘a rising tide will lift all boats’. Given that a post-growth economy deliberately seeks a non-growing economy – on the assumption that a rising tide will sink all boats – poverty alleviation must be achieved more directly, via redistribution, both nationally and internationally. In other words (and to change the metaphor), a post-growth economy would eliminate poverty and achieve distributive equity not by baking an ever-larger economic pie but by slicing it differently. Any attempt to systemically redistribute wealth via taxation or property reform will be highly controversial, especially in our neoliberal age, but present concentrations of wealth demand a political response. Research published this year shows that the richest 8 men on the planet now own more than the poorest half of humanity. Dwell on that for a moment. There is no single best policy for eliminating poverty or achieving a just distribution of wealth, but key policy options include (i) a basic income or job guarantee for all, which ensures that every permanent resident has a minimal, living wage; (ii) progressive tax policies (i.e. the more you earn, the higher the tax rate) which could culminate in a top tax rate of 90% or more; (iii) wealth taxes, that systematically transfer 3% of private wealth from the richest to the poorest recognising the large social component in wealth production; and (iv) estate taxes of 90% or more to ensure the laws of inheritance and bequest do not create a class system of entrenched wealth and entrenched poverty.

I contend that these policy platforms – all in need of detailed elaboration and discussion – should be the opening moves in a ‘top down’ transition to a post-growth economy. To be employed in concert, they clearly challenge the dominant macroeconomics of growth and would require far more social control over the economy than neoliberal capitalism permits today. Markets work well in some circumstances, no doubt, but leaving everything to the market and thinking this will magically advance the common good has been proven dangerously false. The policies above also depend upon a society that sees the necessity and desirability of a post-growth economy, hence the special importance of public education campaigns and the emergence of a new, post-consumerist culture of consumption.

Beyond these policy platforms, it should go without saying that any post-growth transition would require an array of other structural changes, including policies to create (or recreate) a ‘free press’; policies to ensure that campaign financing rules do not permit undue economic influence on the democratic process; policies that ensure affordable housing or access to land; and so forth. I do not pretend to have provided a complete political agenda for a post-growth economy. The proposals above are merely key aspects of such a transition and a good place to begin thinking about how to structure a just and sustainable, post-growth economy.

As well as maintaining and updating the critique of growth and detailing coherent policies for a post-growth economy, it is also important to develop sophisticated transition strategies that would maximise the chances of a post-growth political campaign succeeding. Among other things, this would involve exploring the role grassroots social movements might have to play creating the cultural foundations for a post-growth economy. As suggested above, a clever and sustained ‘social marketing’ campaign promoting a post-growth economy is critical here, in order to weaken the hold the ideology of growth has on society.

***


Samuel Alexander

 

 

References

Ayres, R. and Warr, B. 2009. The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK.

Anderson, K. 2013, ‘Avoiding dangerous climate change demands de-growth strategies from wealthier nations’, available at: http://kevinanderson.info/blog/avoiding-dangerous-climate-change-demands-de-growth-strategies-from-wealthier-nations/ [accessed 25 August 2015].

Anderson, K. 2015. ‘Duality in Climate Science’ Nature Geoscience 8 pp.898-900. DOI:10.1038/ngeo2559

Coote, A. and Franklin, J. (eds) 2013, Time on Our Side: Why We All Need a Shorter Working Week, New Economics Foundation, London.

Gerland, P. et al 2014, ‘World Population Stabilization Unlikely This Century’ Science 18 September 2014: DOI: 10.1126/science.1257469.

Sanne, C. 2002. ‘Willing Consumers – Or Locked-In? Policies for a Sustainable Consumption’ Ecological Economics 42, pp. 273-287.

Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., and Fitoussi, J.P. 2010, Mis-Measuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up, The New Press, New York.

Trainer, T. 2011, ‘The Radical Implications of a Zero Growth Economy,’ Real-World Economics Review 57 pp. 71-82.

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28 Comments

  • THIS UPCOMING SURVEY ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY. I asked my two teenage children what they would like me to put on the survey as my view isn’t going to be covered and it is they who are going to grow up in the Australia/World of the future.

    This survey is another example of the absolute and utter crap we are facing as a nation whilst the great divide is getting greater, politicians and the system they operate under is increasingly inefficacious, power shortages, lack of industry and purpose, farmers going under, water drying up, topsoil blowing away.

    The answer is not in trying to fix/adjust/manipulate the present system but to DESTROY IT ALL IN FAVOUR OF A MORE EQUITABLE PROCESS.

    THAT is a FAIR GO! Start from scratch. When we went from imperial to metric, the nation didn’t stop. When we went from Pounds to Dollars, the nation didn’t stop. When we floated the dollar, the nation didn’t stop. When the GST came in, the nation didn’t stop.

    RIGHT NOW THE NATION IS SLOWLY COMING TO A STOP. Lack of clear policy and government insecurity is the start. We exist on a three year promise and nothing more. HOW THE HELL CAN WE LOOK GLOBALLY WHEN RIGHT NOW WE CAN’T EVEN TAKE CARE OF WHAT WE HAVE GOT?

    OPINIONS NEVER CHANGE A DAMN THING, ACTION DOES.

    Where did I leave my pitchfork????

  • I’m a self-professed humanist, and I agree with so many of the concepts put forward on this site. I have one concern, however, which it would be interesting to hear answered. We live on an island (or collection of), and I think that makes it easy for Australians to think of ourselves as apart from the rest of the world. However, the greatest challenges we face today, we all face as humans sharing a small planet, and we cannot solve them by thinking nationalistically. I wonder whether the emphasis on reducing immigration to Australia on this site is a clever way to attract the attention of a broader audience? Population issues are not going to be solved by leaving people behind in development – and that means globally. It has been proven that better standards of living is what drives down fertility rates (only look at all the more developed nations and their birth rates, most of them negative now, including Australia’s – our population growth is only due to immigration or our numbers would be shrinking). If we allow close neighbours such as PNG to continue to struggle in poverty with inadequate health services, education, infrastructure etc., then their populations will continue to boom, while we syphon off the cream of their talent (e.g. PNG & other SE Asian/Pacific health workers as selected migrants to look after our ageing population, leaving fewer there to care for their own populations). The problem is not solved simply by closing borders, but by addressing the roots of inequity globally. At least one of the richest people in the world is doing something about this (cf Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) – but our government is not even meeting recommended overseas aid commitments (http://devpolicy.org/aidtracker/)! And we cannot ‘cry poor’ as a nation – we have a robust GNI and one of the longest life expectancies on the planet. Insularity is not the answer, and it shouldn’t take events like world wars for us to start looking over the horizon, as well as into our own backyards. Some of these backyard initiatives could be making a difference for all of us.

  • Many years ago I used to tell people that there was a wall over the horizon and if we keep driving at dpeed we will hit it. They wondered what I was on about.! We can cearly see the wall now but instead of braking we are pressing on the accelerator. Go figure…!!!!

      • Yep. What’s worse is that the vast majority are allergic to basic maths. Very easy to explain our predicament (and how the future may look) with some simple compounding. But no-one’s interested.

        Dick, perhaps you might become a maths teacher? 🙂

  • Thank goodness, at last, someone/some ppl are recognising the problems that over-population are giving the world AND are offering alternatives/solutions.
    I am so grateful. I have been talking about this for a long time, but am just a voice in a crowd.
    My life is lived simply, even parsimoniously. I do not use heating, and rarely use cooling, in my home. I have a strong hybrid car, solar on the roof, and live peacefully among my friends and neighbours.
    More power to your elbows.

    • Wow Jane, where do you live? I don’t want to use the heater but fully clothed and wrapped in my thickest blanket I’m still freezing! This summer (in a different area of the country – I don’t have a home) I was melting because there was no air con – I happily took the place because I rarely use air con so I got there during the hottest season in living memory…
      Would have liked a hybrid, but they don’t carry all the bits I like to have with me. Would be happier if I could find eco-diesel but I’ve never seen it in 4000km up and down the east coast. Hope you also have solar batteries, it’s a pity we can’t work out a better way to feed back into the grid – I’ve heard that all the little generators feeding back into the grid mess it up somehow – could of course be an economic argument, not a scientific one…

  • I sent the following letter the AHRC Race Discrimination Commissioner over 12 months ago and received the reply following. The Race Discrimination Commissioner did not accept my invitation to be proactive.

    Australian Human Rights Commission

    Address
    Level 3, 175 Pitt Street
    SYDNEY NSW 2000

    GPO Box 5218
    SYDNEY NSW 2001

    Telephone: (02) 9284 9600
    National Information Service: 1300 656 419
    General enquiries and publications: 1300 369 711
    TTY: 1800 620 241
    Fax: (02) 9284 9611

    Office Hours

    Counter and general enquiries: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM AEST
    National Information Service: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM AEST

    Dear Tim Soutphommasane,

    I have read your comments about Pauline Hanson potentially inciting violence by her anti immigration statements.

    You are quoted as saying. “By all means, let’s hear what the concerns are, but let’s do it in a manner that respects fellow Australian citizens and doesn’t reduce anyone to the status of an outsider who is unwelcome in Australia.”

    I think you are missing the point.

    Most immigrants are unwelcome in Australia by a segment of the population who see that Australia is importing people (immigrants) to the detriment of the existing population. This view is not racist. This view is protective of the earth and the people living on it. This view is also protective of the standard of living of the current Australian population and the ecological sustainability of flora and fauna.

    High levels of immigration are not necessary except to falsely inflate the frequently misleading neo-classical economic measure known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is increased by having high levels of immigration as larger population numbers, by definition, will increase GDP even if the higher population is, for example, employed only in land clearing while all other production remains equal.

    High levels of immigration are forcing up real estate prices, crowding cities and ethnic enclaves, creating a high demand on infrastructure (that is largely not being upgraded and in any case puts an increased taxation load on existing taxpayers if it is upgraded or replaced) and more.

    At this time in Australia’s history immigration itself is a cause of anti immigrant feelings that can spread into racism and religious intolerance.

    I request that you call for all but ‘essential’ immigration to cease in order to stop the destructive nature that immigration is currently inflicting upon the Australian economy, environment, race and cultural relations.

    Immigration is without doubt currently destructive to Australia and will cause further destruction if allowed to continue. I cannot see that you have any other choice than to call for the halting of all but essentila immigration in order that we may begin rebuilding and restoring intercultural relationships in Australia. To do otherwise will mean that you are supporting the destruction you wish to prevent and heal.

    Yours faithfully,

    Peter Rowan

    Race Discrimination Commissioner
    11/09/2016

    to me
    Dear Mr Rowan,

    Dr Soutphommasane has been made aware of the matters you have raised in your correspondence and has asked me to respond on his behalf.

    You may be interested in some of the recent research that has been conducted on public opinion and immigration: http://scanlonfoundation.org.au/australians-today/

    It is the Commissioner’s view that public debate about immigration should not spill over into any racial intolerance or hostility.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact the Commission.

    Yours sincerely,

    Katherine Samiec
    Executive and Research Assistant to the Race Discrimination Commissioner

    • Brilliant letter Peter! Pity its reply was not in the same league, let alone of similar quality. You did not make a racist comment, your comments were specifically NON-racist. Actually, with the bias towards immigration from countries with, uh, darker built-in suntans, the immigration policy is far more racist than your letter. Again, as mentioned elsewhere, racism works both ways – I’ve been on the receiving end of racism for being white, but I can’t claim it’s racist because I’m the perceived oppressor. Sadly, most people don’t see this.

  • There seems to be a problem of perception for some people (of course not all) who are able to insulate themselves from the crush on peak hour public transport and long commutes on roads. Who drive comfy cars and and live in well air conditioned houses with a pleasant outlook or garden in a nice suburb or town. Its a bit hard to believe there’s a problem.

    Also the ‘head in the sand’ approach reminds me of a some people who can’t believe the smoke of a bush fire on a distant hill on a very hot, north wind day is really a threat. So they make the decision to just “wait and see”. Sadly for some, this proves to be fatal.

    • You’ve got to see a bushfire in action to believe it – by which time it’s too late… Most people lack the imagination to survive, making me wonder how we got to this point.

  • The idea that falling so called “recession”or “depression” level home and other real estate prices are disastrous is a huge ruling class deception.

    The person who is homeless is far better off when homes fall to a level of affordability and they can buy.

    The person who currently owns a home which has an overinflated value is, essentially, no worse off if the home value falls to $1.

    For example:

    They can still live in the home even though it is no longer valued at, say, $10,000,000.

    They can still sell the home and buy an equivalent $1 (once $10,000,000) home.

    They can pay lower Stamp Duty and other charges.

    Only if they wish to borrow against their home will they be ‘worse off’. And who cares if you cannot borrow $1 against your home…You now have a home!

    Business is equally benefited by lower property prices.

    Lower…Depression and Recession level real estate prices… are good for almost everybody.

    • If you OWN your own home, yes. It’s the mortgagees who have the problem – if you fall behind, even if you sold your home, you wouldn’t get what you owe, much less make the all-important profit. Although my uncle might disagree with you, he says he can’t take a brick from the wall and take it down to the supermarket to buy food.
      When last I looked for housing, I told the estate agent that I understood that if you pay more for a house, you want to recoup that cost in higher rent, but until wages/pensions/benefits increase similarly, it’s not feasible – and what’s the point of buying an investment home if you can’t rent it out? The estate agent hadn’t even seen the correlation between higher property prices and higher rents! And whilst it used to be $100,000 selling price, $100/wk rent, now it’s $150,000 selling price, $235/wk rent (actual figures at the time). Yes Dick, about time for a Fair Go! I’ve often asked, how can I compete with workers who are paid a $700/wk travel allowance ON TOP of their wages when I don’t get $700/wk total? (Politicians at the time were getting a $274/DAY away from home allowance – I get less a week than they get in 2 days! AND I don’t have a home to go back to!)
      You wonder why we have equity issues in Australia?

  • It is good to see that we are finally taking note of some of the core fundamentals such as greed through excessive consumption and population that underpin our modern societies. Sadly the manipulation of wealth to serve the few is entrenched whereby sadly increasing taxes to curb the growth of greed will have a minimal if any affect because the accumulation of income is not the same as the accumulation of wealth and those in real power have an agenda above the common man and are above and immune to any constraints built into the current system.

    Is the solution then achievable and the answer is sadly ‘NO’ within the current greed orientated non-moralistic systems that dominate throughout the world. Therefore for there to be hope the world needs an alternative system that addresses the moral decay of mankind and their impact on this world and their fellowman such as the ‘Yeshua System’.

    The Yeshua System including its ‘Constitution of Rights’ can be downloaded or read from FaceBook page called ‘So Shall It Be’. The implementation of the Yeshua System would end poverty, address moral, greed and corruption issues while supporting the welfare and welbeing of all people including the planet. With the ‘Principles of Relationship’ being at its core (Honesty, Responsibility, Respect, Integrity and Faith) while supporting the natural family structure the problems associated with over-population and global excessive resource consumption are addressed without bloodshed and inequality. We need to remember that ‘man cannot rule man’ for no one should be above or immune to the law due to the corruption and temptation of power.

    • Well you could try but I doubt our pollies could spell those 5 words much less know what they mean. Certainly, the last sentence would be incomprehensible.

  • Yes GPI. I would like to know if Dick Smith and his project would join with the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Party.

  • As a resident of the Northern Beaches I am living through the effects of population growth and witnessing that the only plan seems to be the old answer of cutting down trees and creating more high residential living. There seems to be no long range plan for balanced development which will preserve our unique environment.

    • Everyone who lives on the Northern Beaches lets you know it in the first 3 seconds. Yeah you guys are really seeing the effects around there aren’t you? (sarcasm).

    • They couldn’t spell balanced and they don’t give a rat’s about our beautiful, unique environment – if they can’t guzzle it or add it to their bank balance, it’s worthless.

  • I’m not convinced population growth is the problem you contend it is. In fact, too drastic a reduction in population would be a complete disaster as you will have an inverted population pyramid where a decreasing taxation base is required to support the increasing social welfare costs of the aged and infirm.
    Neither am I convinced Climate Change is the problem it is generally made out to be. Climates have always changed naturally (the rise and fall of civilisations often track those changes). But the truly paradigm shifting changes are always natural: 2004 Tsunami, 2011 Japanese Earthquake. The role of CO2 from fossil fuels as an agent of climate change has been overstated (probably because banks wanted to trade carbon credits, a ripe market for fraud if ever there was one), land clearance and low quality, high polluting manufacturing are far greater problems.
    Unfettered consumerism is a problem, but if implicit recycling is required to bring any new product to market, we would immediately create a new economy based on recycling obsolete or written off products, maintaining and repairing current ones, as well as meeting your resource caps.
    In so far as global populations go, I believe that there is plenty of space, and natural resources to go around as long as we are sensible about it, but we need to get away from long value chains were only a few amass huge wealth, to shorter chains where it is clear that all parties are getting a fair reward for their labours. I get nervous when anyone mentions Erlich because there is such a clear link back to some group deciding who will live and who will die. I am of the view that technology can solve any problem if we choose to make it important enough.
    What is important, is picking the right problems. Degradation of the environment, security and resiliance are right up there, but population, in and of itself, is not.

    • Yes ‘Dixon’ and the inverted pyramid is exactly what this campaign is also looking to prevent. Life really is about self sufficiency and accountability and the true measurement is not just in the end outcome. The marketed path of distraction we are currently on is like a cataclysmic climate change race to the end. May the prescious souls of humanity solve this problem.

    • Coastal city dwellers who rarely leave the coast, have never experienced lack of rescources, drought, (having to shower in a bucket and use that water on the garden), bushfire and hardship. Climate change is with us. Our annual rainfall in my area has dropped from 600mm to 450mm iin my lifetime.
      Inland towns and cities, such as Broken Hill and Grenfell ,Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, have to pump water from far away, from an unreliable water scource. Even our rapidly expanding National Capital could easily face a crisis in a very dry period. Sydney so far has not had to use its desalinator, but the day wil lcome with increasing population. How can we sustain ever increasing population, with ever decreasing rainfall

      • I catch shower water Ben, but I usually flush it down the loo (also try to reuse a fair bit of water from the washing machine). But I went past Somerset and Wivenhoe dams when Brisbane was in its worst drought and it shocked me. Can’t explain that to city-dwellers who never get out of the concrete jungle though, it just doesn’t mean anything to them.

    • I wonder what planet some people live on when they make comments like this.
      Why is there so much land clearing? To make way for housing for an ever-increasing population or to make farmland to feed said population (especially once they’ve built tacky, fall-down houses on once-magnificent farmland…) Take a look at the increase in the size of Sydney in the last 30 years before you say over-population is overstated.
      Start looking at the welfare of humans, not the stupid “economy”. If you’ve ever had to make the choice between buying food and paying the heating bill you’ll know that every time the health of the economy increases, the prices go up in the grocery store, but the pension doesn’t go up, the lowest wages don’t go up, the rents do, and the already over-inflated electricity prices, the council rates go up, but not the ability to pay them.
      I have friends who both worked hard all their lives, paid taxes, bought a house, saved for their retirement, who got 8% on their investments when they retired. Now they can’t reinvest those investments for more than 1-2% but their council rates have gone up in the 20%s. These are people who have made the effort at self-support in their retirement whose efforts have been totally eaten up by ridiculous taxes and inflation. It’s the economic model that has to change, not the population of the tax-paying workforce that has to increase – or haven’t you looked at the unemployment figures recently??? More people, fewer jobs!
      It’s not just the CO2 that causes greenhouse pollution, methane is a much bigger contributor – from farmed cows for us to eat – more humans, more cows required to feed them. Admittedly, the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano pumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than we do, but it did it once, not permanently and ever-increasingly.
      We don’t even recycle the products we have – again, due to economics, not the desire to care for our home – do you really think we’ll suddenly change to an Indian-style frugality where they break down old engines into their individual components for reuse when we’re used to an American-style crush-it-all-together and dump it mentality??? Or did you not bother will the ABCs recent programs on waste? Have you not heard of built-in obsolescence? Where once we were proud to build a refrigerator or a washer (or a car) that lasted 20-30 years, now we build them to last less than 10 years so you’re forced to buy new ones – and they don’t bother to recycle the old. SURELY it can’t be more expensive to recycle old fridges than to mine new iron ore, but take a look at a dump (or our once-beautiful bushland), there are old fridges rusting away all over, not being recycled. THAT’s economics and technology for you, not your magical solution.
      Plenty of SPACE is one thing, the other resources are not equivalent to geographical area. This is why Australia is in the pickle it is in – big countries with huge populations see the space, not the quality of the land or the often diminishing rainfall and they covet the space assuming food and water will materialize out of thin air.
      Learn to think, not just swallow government and corporate lies whole.

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