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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Economics blind spot is a disaster for the planet

with 5 comments

New Scientist

As long as our economic system is based on chasing economic growth above all else, we are heading for environmental, and economic, disaster

It is quite a long article, and well written by Herman Daly. He is one of the founders of the field of ecological economics, which argues that the scale of the economy must be kept within sustainable limits. He was senior economist in the World Bank’s environment department from 1988 to 1994, and is now professor of ecological economics at the University of Maryland.

So this is his opinion and sums up a lot of what I have been feeling wary about when I read about what is being done to deal with the present economic downturn.  The recent G20 meeting did not even consider the possibility that now would be a good time to reconsider what growth has been doing to us and the ecosystem on which we depend.   But then maybe we are incapable of responding

The way we’re psychologically wired and socially conditioned to respond to crises makes us ill-suited to react to the abstract and seemingly remote threat posed by global warming.

And that of course is only one but possibly the most immediate threat we face. The others include running out of the things we need to stay healthy – like food, clean water and beathable air. Let alone the things we have decided we cannot live without – most of which require huge amounts of energy and other natural resources.

Actually I think the planet will be okay in the long run. It will still be here long after we have gone and once humans and their destructive habits are gone, the adjustments will get made and life will re-emerge. And hopefully next time a more intelligent species will evolve. Becuase I see very little evidence at the moment that the people who are aware of what is happening are doing enough to get the rest of us to accept that we need to change what we have been doing

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Posted in Economics, Environment

5 Responses

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  1. It could be that MORE intelligence is precisely what is NOT required. Whether or not intelligence is, in the long run, a successful evolutionary strategy seems to be still up in the air.

    Some degree of intelligence may be helpful, but it could be that too much is deadly to a species.

    Our high esteem for intelligence may be no more justified than dinosaurs trend to size.

    It is just too soon to say at this point. Give it another few thousand years and we may know if mankind’s intelligent ability to wipe himself off of the planet has been kept under control.

    Ron Richings

    November 18, 2008 at 11:15 pm

  2. badfreeway

    November 18, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  3. I think our problems have less to do with either a lack or abundance of intelligence, and more to do with greed. Otherwise intelligent people (our leaders, for example) will do things not in the best interests of society out of greed, which is at the root of economic growth. It may be as direct as a payoff, it may be as vague as promoting highway expansion because that’s what they think it takes to keep the whole system going, and therefore their own wealth and power.

    Another good related article:


    November 19, 2008 at 11:53 am

  4. I recently hosted a seminar session on sustainable cities for a graduate-level course. I opened with discussion on popular definitions of sustainability (i.e. Brundtland Commission) and moved on to the concepts of urban metabolism and ecological footprint. I was trying to make the point that we have the means to do quantitative, whole-system analysis of our material and energy impacts, rather than leave the term sustainability as just a fuzzy green word that could mean recycling the newspaper or maybe even driving a hybrid. I was trying to make the point that the “big picture” should define the envelope for human activities – that we should scale our economies and lifestyles to fit within (our best understanding of) sustainable environmental impacts.

    So far so good; nothing really new here, and general agreement from the participants…yet, when we got to a discussion on the choice of regional transportation modes for business travel, there were comments to the effect of, “We can’t substitute a four-hour train ride for a one-hour flight because the productivity loss would cost too much,” implying that the extra environmental impact of the flight would be justified under any conditions. What about that envelope we just talked about? We never even made it to telecommuting solutions.

    At the end of the seminar I felt a bit defeated. There must be better way to convey this message. Perhaps I need to take a page from the Lisa Bennett ‘incapable of responding’ piece cited above, forget the science and just straight to “your children won’t live out their natural lives if we don’t…” line. But then people just think you’re a ranting nutcase.

    Marcus Williams

    November 19, 2008 at 1:31 pm

  5. I have to agree with Grant. Better start preparing for the Long Emergency.


    November 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

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