The Résumé was of a book published in 2011, This weblog ‘Page’ sketches possible updates for a revised edition. It includes passages which merit further discussion, but also adds insights developed since 2011, mainly a clearer idea of the enormity of the problem, and why the 1972 MIT Limits to Growth failed to have much impact. My preferred title if such a book materializes is:
A Recession can be fun (It will have to be)
Already in the original book requiring further discussion:
Reconciling left v right
Austerity as a trigger for xenophobia.
Chimps & Bonobos (Is war natural? – Professor Margaret Hamilton’s 2018 BBC Reith Lectures)
Strengthen trade by importing less
Real root of the Tragedy of the Commons:
Strategies for growth are the worst possible when limits are reached
But growth is very difficult to escape, for two reasons:
1 Humans are hard wired against loss, and starting from growth anything less is emotionally perceived as loss (The Political Brain Drew Westen (2008).
2 The solution must be world wide – no one can allow themselves to be at a disadvantage (Venezuela as an example of one country accidentally doing the right thing unilaterally.)
Castes & Feudalism as ways the Tragedy has been dealt with in the past.
Why those benefitting most are trapped. (The Origin of Capitalism: a longer View) Ellen Meiksins Wood (verso 2002)
Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics (Random house 2017)
An unconditional, universal Basic (Citizens’) Income as making a mind set change possible.
Here is the narrative which will underpin a re-write:
Anatomically modern humans have existed for at least 170 millennia.
Genetic mutations had given them abilities their hominid ancestors did not possess, enabling them to assume growth – and establish cultures – for the first 160 of those millennia.
The optimum strategies based on growth are individualistic and competitive.
But these become, quite suddenly (due to the exponential principle), the worst possible strategies when limits are reached, hence the Tragedy of the Commons
Conflict remains in specific circumstances (as with all forms of life), but co-operation becomes essential as the general rule.
Growth-based strategies have considerable inertia. Humans are hard-wired against loss, and anything other than growth is perceived as loss.
Even now growth is not seriously challenged on population, and it remains the dominant economic paradigm.
Population growth is still a problem, particularly in habitat loss and causing migration
Per capita consumption has only become significant within the last 100 years, but some consider that it is now more serious than population as an ecological threat.
As stated above, reluctance to abandon growth is understandable. It led to the introduction of laborious agriculture rather than limiting population after more than 150,000 years of not needing it [this is discussed in the original book], and competition has led to the enormous advances of the last 300 years, but growth strategies must sooner or later do more harm than good.
Some believe that moment can be postponed indefinitely with a switch to ‘Green growth’, and new technology. Possibly, temporarily, but it would be safer to plan for Kate Raworth’s economic soft landing – a steady state economy.
Evidence that we are already beyond the point at which that is necessary – abnormal weather,especially in Kerala, coral bleaching, habitat and species loss, fracking (CH4 escape), plastics in the oceans . . .
But as humans are hard wired against loss, zero growth causes insecurity.
Xenophobia, not co-operation is a natural reaction. This is in the context of a culture already predisposed to aggression to solve conflicts.
Something is needed to ensure a feeling of security if strategies for sustainability are even to be possible.
The only such mechanism of which I am aware is a universal unconditional Basic (Citizen’s) Income (UBI), which needs to be world- wide.
The UBI makes possible (but does not automatically bring about) a reconciliation between the traditional left/right conflict -the haves versus the have nots. For a degree of redistribution, less than was accepted during and for some time after the second world war, everyone,, rich or poor, can think in terms of preserving the planet’s life support systems
In 2003, Wolfgang Sachs said:
“The world is no longer divided by the ideologies of “left” and en informe”right”, but by those who accept ecolgical limits and those who don’t”
That is still not true. This book will explore why not. The Green Party was formed precisely to address the existential threat described in the 1972 MIT study Limits to Growth. No one has offered a better narrative than the foregoing, Something at least as effective, is urgent.
I have been informed by Wikipedia that the following statement:
The real root of the Tragedy of the Commons: is that the optimum strategies for exploiting opportunities for growth become the worst possible strategies as limits to growth are reached. Due to the exponential principle this change happens quite suddenly, but the growth-oriented strategies persist.”
or even more briefly:
Strategies for growth are the worst possible strategies when limits are reached
is an original insight. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not the place to publish original material. It will only be included (under Tragedy of the Commons) when someone suitably eminent refers to it.