Why "Sustainable Growth" Doesn't Have to Be an Oxymoron

In my live chat with wind energy pioneer Dale Vince yesterday, he suggested that our real challenge is not just rethinking how we produce energy—but rethinking our relationship with the world around us, and how we live in a world of deeply constrained resources. It's an idea that most likely resonates with Peter Baker, author of the Jolly Pilgrim. In an extract entitled Why We Need to Stop Saving the Planet, and Just Realise Our Place In It posted over at The Ecologist, he puts the current search for sustainability in the context of human evolution. Interestingly, while he acknowledges that our technological nature has pushed us well outside the Earth's carrying capacity, he argues forcefully that there is no way to go back—and that growth and sustainability do not have to be mutually exclusive:

A technological civilisation is not anathema to environmental sustainability, even if it has a growing economy. It's true that the character of our civilisation's hardware and logistics over the past few centuries has meant that the size of economies has been proportional to their environmental side effects, but it won't always be that way. The nature of tomorrow's economy will be radically different from today's and, ultimately, its size is a subjective thing. Economic growth doesn't have to mean ever-bigger factories. A firm of lawyers generates more economic output (and a lot more hot air) than a polluting mill, even though it has lower carbon emissions.

Changing cizilization so it works in harmony with nature is not, he says, impossible. It's just a "very big problem". Discuss.

Tags: Activism | Economics | United Kingdom