Tag Archives: sustainability

Some evidence in favour of our suggestions

Brief notes and (and links to) a few studies providing evidence in favour of some of our suggestions, and one looking at the case for a Financial Transactions Tax.

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Filed under Barry, climate change, economic analysis, sustainability

If not capitalism, then what?

We’ve done a fair bit of criticising contemporary capitalism in this blog. One of the follow-up questions we have been asking ourselves all along is: “if not capitalism, then what?’

Well yes. If not life as we know it, with all its enormous ‘reality’, complexity, and slow-turning, apparently unstoppable power and momentum – then what? And how do we get from here to there? It’s quite a topic for a couple of part-time bloggers to tackle. The hubris! But then we’re not tackling it on our own – human society is always and inescapably a collaborative venture – we’re hitching a ride with the thinkers whose work we’ve commented on, hopefully in return bringing it to some who would not otherwise have met it.

So where have we got to so far, in our hitching, in our answer to this big question?
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Ecological macroeconomics: resolving the three dilemmas of transformation

Jonathan Harris, “Ecological macroeconomics: consumption, investment, and climate change”, real-world economics review, issue no. 50, 1 September 2009, pp. 34-48,

Harris (Tufts University) begins his discussion by using the charmingly mild phrase “cognitive disconnect” to decribe the yawning great chasm between “scientists’ warnings of potential catastrophe if carbon emissions continue unchecked on the one hand and the political and economic realities of steadily increasing emissions on the other” (p.34)

It is, as he says, “the outstanding economic problem of the twenty-first century. Can economic growth continue while carbon emissions are drastically reduced?” (p.34) And asking that question makes us look more closely at what, in fact, economic growth is and how we might make a successful economic and social transition to sustainability.

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Human identity and environmental challenges

Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity – Tom Crompton & Tim Kasser (WWF-UK, 2009)

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (definition by Albert Einstein)

This excellent report argues that much environmental  campaigning has been ineffective because it is focused on changing organisations and behaviours – and fails to engage with the critical role of human identity – how we understand ourselves as human beings.

There is a concise overview document (8 pages of body text) as well as the book-length full report – both available for download at the link above.  For those for whom even that is too long, some brief notes follow as a taster that will hopefully motivate you to go and read it yourself  🙂

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“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad” – intrinsic values as drivers for social change and tools to escape consumerism

One of the debates that has regularly reared its head in the environmental movement is how best to achieve change to more environmentally friendly behaviour. Small specific steps often seem the most direct and effective way to achieve practical change now, and yet there is intuitively a disquieting gap between the scale of social change needed and such small, non-challenging steps as changing to more efficient light-bulbs.

About a year ago, WWF-UK came out with a report, titled Weathercocks & Signposts, that addresses this precisely question.

After examining a wide range of evidence, they conclude that we need a “radically different approach” to product-marketing style campaigns that begin with the assumption of the sovereignty of consumer choice. Instead, they say, “any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make – and, indeed, with our sense of who we are” (p.5)

Marketing style campaigns usually seek to “go with what works”, which may well result in campaigns based on appeals to status and self-interest rather than environmental values. They may seem to be the most effective way of achieving change in the short-run.

“But the evidence presented in this report suggests that such approaches may actually serve to defer, or even undermine, prospects for the more far-reaching and systemic behavioural changes that are needed.” (p.5)

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Escaping the growth imperative

A friend recently expressed to me one of the essential conundrums of contemporary  capitalist society: “I can see growth can’t continue, [because of the environmental impacts] but I can’t see how we can stop it without the whole system falling over like a stack of cards.”

One good answer can be found in the recent report of the U.K Sustainability Commission, titled Prosperity Without Growth.  But I thought I might also give a much shorter answer that comes at it from a slightly different angle, in the hope my friend and others might find it helpful.

Let’s look at why economies grow, and why capitalism (as we know it) depends on growth, because then we will quickly discover our answer as to how – in principle – we might create a no/low growth economy that doesn’t collapse and doesn’t produce social disaster.

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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, Barry, capitalism, economic analysis, sustainability

Accelerating over the edge of the cliff

Climate & Capitalism have posted a  Sunday Herald story on a report due out tomorrow. The report is by the environmental advisors to the U.K governments and appears to pull no punches – a taste:

The economic system is broken, and attempts by governments to fix it by kick-starting growth and consumerism are “delusional” and “pathological”

UPDATE: The full report, a summary, and background papers are available here. The full report is quite sizeable, so you might want to start with the summary – it is good stuff. A few  quotes as a summary of  the summary follow:

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