Jay van Tol, Myocum
The conflict between economic growth and ecological sustainability is a serious issue. Standard economic theory and world-wide governmental policy promote economic growth as a panacea to everything: poverty, unemployment, even environmental degradation. However, good evidence indicates that economic growth is now causing more problems, at least in developed countries, than it solves. As any sane person would conclude, on a finite planet growth cannot continue forever.
Yet, zero growth has a negative connotation because many people fail to distinguish between growth and development. A good analogy to our economy is a human body: a baby grows but eventually stops accreting matter and demanding more energy, but a grown adult can continue to develop through education and experience without any growth at all.
To pick a random example that conflates growth and development and ignores standard economic policy, the ‘park and ride’ (letter 27 February) argues against the Byron Bypass – which I agree with – but building projects, especially on a large scale, help fulfil our macroeconomic policy of growing. The author also makes the common error of referring to the West Byron Development project, which is in fact a growth project.
An appropriate alternative to the growth economy is Herman Daly’s steady-state economy: ase.tufts.edu/gdae/es135/SSE.pdf.