Relatively rich countries may need to manage no-growth economies to avoid pushing the planet toward disaster, but there are ways to manage such a transition so that it actually improves quality of life, York University economist Peter Victor, author of Managing Without Growth, told attendees at the public day of Footprint Forum 2010. Victor spoke at a panel discussion called Rethinking Growth, which addressed the paradox of our current economic models, which are dependent upon continued growth, with the ecological cost and, ultimately, physical impossibility of such models in a world of limited resources.
Download Victor’s presentation. (Note: files have been modified for pdf format. Some images may not display.)
“We asked, ‘Could we have full employment in Canada, no poverty, fiscal balance and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, while stabilizing economic growth?’” Victor’s team developed a model that found such a tall order was indeed possible to achieve so long as certain mechanisms were in place.
If you do it clumsily, it’s a disaster,” Victor said. “Unemployment is way too high and poverty goes way up.” But it is possible to create a model for stable economic growth in which unemployment and poverty are actually lower than they would be in a business-as-usual scenario, he said. The key is implementing measures that would limit ecological impact while enhancing social safety nets and enable more even distribution of wealth.
The measures called for in his model include:
• New meanings and measures of success
• Limits on materials, energy, wastes and land use
• Stable population and labor force
• More efficient capital stock
• Carbon price
• Shorter work week/work year
• Fewer status goods
• More generous anti-poverty programs
• Education for life not just work
Humanity’s ecological overspending will have the effect, sooner or later, of pushing the world to a no-growth economy. No growth “could be disastrous,” Victor said. “The point is, it doesn’t have to be.”
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