All production requires the circulation of materials and the utilization of energy.
So it is the most limiting factor, the first fence that we come to that stops us, that prevents sustainable equilibrium
A new science is emerging that blends a “biophysical” economic perspective with throughput of energy, and a better accounting of our real impact on this planet. Reading the text solidified a lot of the issues I was having with the discipline.
For example, what are the implications of not giving an intrinsic value to a limited resource? (oil)
-First, we expand scope of human footprint. GDP has grown as a direct result from using more energy, with no factors limiting size. There exists an “optimal scale” of activity, which complements optimal efficiency of macroeconomics. This occurs where rate of energy use = rate of regeneration of nonrenewable resources + rate of discovery of renewable alternatives.
-We undo systems that are not easily reversed. All of our accounting is anthropocentric (taking humans first) so the existence of resources or nature actually doesn’t matter except in what they do for us. If a biologist was assessing where our ecosystems need to be for base-line long term sustainability, mass extinction would not be acceptable. Biology and ecology can be incorporated into economics with biophysical materials/energy accounting.
– Not only does the inequality of use hurt “crowded out” countries, the forests, seas, and parks, but future generations are going to be seriously disapproving of our unchecked impact. It is an issue of generational equity, and should be treated as such. Trying to discount the future (see: Stern Review: The Economics on Climate Change) is really the wrong view, to allow Economics to decide equity over a matter of political and moral implications.
Ecologic economics gives us new ways to think about these problems in a vocabulary to dialogue with academics, policy makers, and students. If you like what you read here, the editors of Ecological Economics periodical explain it in much better detail: Older theory book New Version 4/2009 This new transdisciplinary approach will be required to frame a reality that is sustainable on local, regional, and global scales.
In the hands of the right people, it just might save us… it will, no doubt, be the most important development in Economics in the 21st century.
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