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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
With a life expectancy of 79.1 years and levels of wellbeing in the top 7% of the world, Costa Rica matches many Scandinavian nations in these areas and far outperforms the United States. And it manages all of this with a GDP per capita of only $11,000, one fifth that of the US. In this sense, Costa Rica is one of the most efficient economies on Earth: it produces high standards of living with low GDP and minimal pressure on the environment.
The circular economy – the newest magical word in the sustainable development vocabulary – promises economic growth without destruction or waste. However, the concept only focuses on a small part of total resource use and does not take into account the laws of thermodynamics.
Perhaps the main reason people reject the need for a steady state economy is some form of cornucopianism, the belief that technological progress will overcome all ecological and physical limits, allowing endless economic growth into the indefinite future. Cornucopianism has several flavors, and I will describe three: mainstream economics, eco-modernism, and singularity theory.
The importance of a holistic approach to the linkage between energy and water can be judged by an associated law in US: the ‘Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS) Act of 2014’. It defines the term energy-water nexus as the link between energy efficiency and the quantity of water needed to produce fuels and energy, and the quantity of energy needed to transport, reclaim, and treat water. High GDP growth rate paradigm in India has only aggravated the associated issues for a resource constrained country. This article analyses the associated issues and recommends few steps to address the problem in the medium to long term.
Several recent reports collectively endorsed by thousands of expert scientists have warned the world that time is running out to save Humanity and the Biosphere from further catastrophic climate change and further massive biodiversity loss. Massive harm has already occurred due to continuing carbon pollution, population growth and economic growth and it is clear that zero growth in these areas is insufficient – there must be negative carbon pollution (atmospheric CO2 draw-down), negative population growth (population decline) and negative economic growth (degrowth) to halt and reverse this worsening disaster. However the key question is how much reversal is needed for a safe and sustainable planet?
In order to meet the colossal challenges of the time, fundamental change to the socio-economic order is needed. The environmental catastrophe is the major issue, together with armed conflict, potentially nuclear. Both threaten the survival of humanity and the planet, and both are widely ignored by the men and women of power, whose short-term approach, obsession with ‘the economy’, and a nationalistic introspective view of the world is leading us to the precipice of disaster.
The emergence of interest in degrowth can be traced back to the 1st International Degrowth Conference organized in Paris in 2008. At this conference, degrowth was defined as a “voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society,” so challenging the dogma of economic growth. Another five international conferences were organized between 2010 and 2018, with the latest in Malmo in August.
Over the past more than ten years I have wandered around almost every tiger sanctuary in India from Kaziranga and Manas in Assam to Idukki in Kerala. I lived in the middle of the Anamallais for seven years. In my childhood and youth in the 1960’s and 70’s, I spent every summer and winter holiday with my dear friend and mentor Uncle Rama (Venkatrama Reddy) in his house on the bank of the Kadam River in the middle of what is today called, Kaval Tiger Reserve. I would spend every single day and many nights in the forest, walking or in a bullock cart. No tiger. I spent ten days in Badhavgarh living in the house of a good friend, alone, in Tala village which is in the buffer zone. I went on safari drives every morning and evening. No tiger. I spent days in Pench, even slept in a dry nala on the boundary of the forest, one hot afternoon. No tiger.
The comfort of rich people depends on an abundant supply of poor people. -Voltaire
Greed is as old as time. As long as there are people, greed and avarice will continue to exist. In Ancient Greece they had a special word for it: 'pleonexia'. Pleonexia is a concept that unites greed, covetousness and avarice in a philosophical context. Strictly speaking, it is ‘the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others’. In other words, ruthless selfishness and the arrogant assumption that other people and things are there to be taken advantage of.