Waves of the Future - The Magian Age

Climate Change, Non-Renewable Resources, Energy, Contaminants, Carbon Pricing...

Green Growth, Degrowth (De-growth), Population Growth, and Economic Crises/Recessions

Many argue that economic growth is unsustainable. Are we headed for disaster?

Are green growth and sustainable development still the answer. Or, is degrowth now the only solution? The latest mineral reserve statistics are alarming.

See also Book I of the Waves of the Future Series

Green Growth, Degrowth (De-growth), Natural Resources, and Population Growth

Current mineral depletion statistics point to dwindling resources, stiff price increases, and the prospect of serious economic troubles ahead.

Many are putting their hopes in green growth. This, in their view, could deliver development that is sustainable. However, no growth is perfectly green, and an increasing number of people now believe that degrowth is the answer, sustainable development itself believed to be unsustainable.

However, a decrease in world economic production would normally imply lower incomes and either shared employment or higher unemployment. While this might be acceptable in rich countries (albeit a difficult sell to voters), it has no hope of ever being a realistic option for countries that are significantly poorer.

Part of the answer lies in combining both green growth (in environmental sectors) and degrowth (for environmentally unfriendly goods), therefore doubling the positive effect of a given strategy. Every job lost in the non-green sectors would be made up by one created in a green sector. As such, a country's environmental footprint would decrease twice as fast without unemployment increasing or people being forced to share jobs.

However, given the advanced stage of depletion of reserves of many base metals, the above would not be enough. Combining green growth/degrowth with a depopulation strategy would address that problem. A 25% smaller population would consume 25% less resources--everything else being equal--and dramatically reduce a country's environmental footprint.

Furthermore, depopulation would make it possible for countries to maintain or even increase incomes--a 25% smaller world production divided by a 25% smaller production would result in the same per capita income. Both 4 pizzas divided by 4 people and 3 pizzas divided by 3 people equal one pizza each. A population reduction stronger (e.g. 20%) than a production decrease (e.g. 15%) would result in a higher income per person and lower unemployment.

The Depopulation-GEE strategy combines all three: green growth, degrowth, and population decrease. It is probably the most effective environmental strategy today, and one having the best hope of maintaining or increasing incomes in the long run.

Mineral Reserve Statistics
Green Growth

Non-Renewable Resources:
Mineral Supplies & Reserve Statistics

Resource Depletion Model Simulations:
Mineral Shortages & Prospect of Economic Crisis

Economics of Poverty
The Aging Baby Boomer Generation Problem

More information: USGS Conservation International Sierra Club UN Population Division