Economic growth and sustainability question


If people believe that sustainability and economic growth are incompatible then why would their place their bets with economic growth?

I asked this on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, but figured there is a decent chance that the Planet3.0 community will provide a better answer.

But just in case I will post any interesting responses I get from elsewhere here.

UPDATE: I haven’t yet gotten a satisfying answer, bit I think the simplest answer is probably correct. Simply put the people I describe above either don’t understand what sustainability means, or don’t know what the implications of having an unsustainable civilization are.

If this is true, then the question becomes how do we explain sustainability in a way that makes the implications of unsustainability stick.

Comments:

  1. Not sure I understand the question. Are you saying people who claim to think sustainability trumps growth are nevertheless supporting growth strategies?

    • In more than a few internet discussions I have had there are people who think that economic growth is incompatible with sustainability. So far I can understand this, though I am not convinced that this is true.

      But they take this incompatibility to mean that sustainability is therefore bunk and continual economic growth is the only sensible policy. This is the part that baffles me.

  2. The University of Michigan are running a free internet course entitled Model Thinking for social scientists. This video lecture seems to answer your question:
    http://d19vezwu8eufl6.cloudfront.net/modelthinking/recoded_videos%2FL5C%20%5Bae1092f7%5D%20.webm

    What do you think?

    Cheers, Alastair.

  3. People recognize that our entire social safety net depends on growth. Growth is concrete. It is measurable and observable. Growth has a foundation in human aspiration and hope. These are not meant to form an argument against sustainability, but to show the strong roots for the argument for growth.

    • I understand that, and even could understand how this could cause someone to refuse to accept that a problem exists.

      But I have had more than a few discussions where growth and sustainability were presented as mutually exclusive (something which I am not yet convinced of) and was used as an argument for business as usual. But if you accept that our civilization is unsustainable then by definition things will have to change, either willingly or unwillingly. Unsustainable things cannot be sustained after all. So how does one justify arguing for business as usual?

      Perhaps the simplest explanation (and since I haven't yet seen anything better it is what I am going with for now) is that these people don't really understand what sustainability means and what its implications are. Perhaps they just haven't given it any thought.

      That answer isn't very satisfying. But sometimes the truth is unsatisfying.


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