|Talk to Era|
What would a steady-state economy look like? What are the changes that are needed to walk the talk of sustainability? Here is the steady state vision for Australia, which also speaks to other nations. By Geoff Mosley.
6th June 2012 - Published by the Centre for Steady State Economics
The following article is from a talk given by Geoff Mosley, CASSE Director of Australian Operations, Adelaide, 19 May, 2012
What I mainly want to talk about today is what a Steady State Economy might be like.
I also want to talk about how to get there. If you are a mountaineer you will know how important it is to pick your peak before you head off. Having a definite goal will of course determine the route you take. In other words the job of changing our economic and political system will be much easier if we work for a desired end state.
The situation we are in is that a lot of people believe there is a need for a change to a more sustainable way of life but very few have any idea about what it would be like - about what they could aim for. This of course means that they tend to wander aimlessly around putting nearly all of their effort into criticising the inadequacies of the present system.
There is no doubt in my mind that a comprehensive alternative system is the biggest ‘Elephant in the Room' in public discourse, even in discourse in the world of conservation.
MAIN ACTIVITIES OF CONSERVATIONISTS TODAY
It is apparent I believe that Government's have a short term view of things and see their main roles as promoting and managing economic growth. But what about the conservation movement?
Remarkably most conservation effort today is concerned with either, preparing what could best be described as ‘situation reports' or, taking action to try to counteract the various adverse effects of our endless economic growth system on the environment. In other words our actions are largely ‘damage control' actions, usually referred to as ‘mitigation' - actions which involve dealing with the effects (the symptoms) rather than the cause (the system). In other words they are mainly reactionary.
Basically what this amounts to is applying band aids here and there. I say ‘here and there' deliberately because that is another feature of the conservation approach. It deals with each problem separately and other than agreement that all of the various effects are adverse and linked in some way it tends to not connect the different problems to the endless economic growth cause, or, if it does, it fails to suggest how we could change it. In this respect the environment movement is not much different to what it was when it was founded over a hundred years ago.
Let me begin by presenting you with my own situation report by looking at some examples of how we operate with regard to particular issues. First - tackling human induced climate change. For many in the environment movement this is "the only big issue". Some are fixated on it. We certainly put a lot of our effort into describing how bad this will be for the environment if we do not curb it, but the almost universal approach is one of mitigation - to work for a switch to non or less carbon emitting energy sources with little concern about either the overall level of energy use or the relationship of energy use to economic growth. We treat it as a carbon emission reduction problem when the basic problem, the cause, is the over production of everything including carbon - treating the world as an infinite source of materials. An Emperor is wearing no clothes situation if ever there was one.
The present situation is that the proportion of energy derived from renewable sources is increasing but the amount of fossil fuels being used is also increasing as is, of course, the total amount of energy being produced and the total carbon emissions. This is because in a perpetual economic growth driven system the demand for energy endlessly increases. The result is that while our efforts in relation to developing more renewable energy have reduced the potential impact of energy use on the atmosphere - in the sense that is without renewables the emissions could have been bigger - the overall impact on the earth from higher levels of energy development and use is increasing. Even if we did achieve a goal of zero carbon emissions, all of the other problems associated with energy fuelled economic growth would still remain.
There are of course many other examples of this sectional approach which I could refer to. We do not just deal with every problem separately but quite often we often deal only with a part of the perceived problem. For instance here in Australia while we have decided to put a price on carbon the Government is totally ignoring the problems created by Australia's massive coal exports. Another inconvenient truth. Even looking at it from the pollution viewpoint it has been estimated that the planned expansion of Australia's mining will by 2020 add 11 times the amount of carbon to the atmosphere that the carbon tax will save. Similarly, the conservation movement is concerned about the exploitation of Coal Seam Gas exploitation on water, agriculture and natural areas such as the Great Barrier Reef but it ignores the wider effects of its use in terms of feeding economic growth. Of course Australia is not alone in being firmly committed to increasing the use of fossil fuels. In the next quarter century China, which already generates 70% of its electricity with coal and plans to bring it down to 63% by 2015, is also planning to add 600 gigawatts of coal fired power capacity, as much as is currently generated today by coal in the US, Europe and Japan put together. We kid ourselves if we think this situation is going to change. There are huge coal resources in Russia and the USA as well as Australia and I doubt whether the successor to the Kyoto Protocol will alter the present situation where countries are not responsible for the emissions from their exports.
Another major consequence of this approach of focusing on mitigation, practised by both Governments and the conservation movement, is that in doing this we are helping to create the illusion that this approach will work, that it is not the underlying system which is at fault but some aspects of the way it operates, something that can be fixed given time. For instance, that we can reduce emissions without tackling the economic growth system which drives the increased use of fossil fuels. In other words in doing this we are actually propping up a bad system and enhancing its legitimacy. ‘Green washing economic growth' is probably a more accurate metaphor for what is going on. Or, maybe ‘green whishing' in the case of wind turbines. Wind turbines are a compulsory backdrop for Julia Gillard when she is talking about the carbon tax but how often have you seen an image of her farewelling the huge coal laden boats at a Queensland port or staring into a giant open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley. You could say that wind turbines help to mask the truth that there is a continuing growth in the usage of fossil fuels and in energy use generally.
The closest that we ever come these days to adopting a different approach of tackling the whole is to talk vaguely about ‘transforming society' or ‘making the transition'. I will return to this in a moment by looking at what is currently being serving up by way of solutions in major reports dealing with the environment.
One aspect of this focus on particular parts of the environment is that the definition of "the environment" as an aspect of human life is seen by the public as only being concerned with specific aspects of the physical environment such as forests, soil, water and pollution. The approach of the media to environmental issues reflects and consolidates this view. Hence the economy and social issues including health and education are seen as being something entirely different and nothing to do with ‘the environment'. This separation of all of these matters from the economic growth driving force makes it much easier for economic growth to remain as the fundamental goal of our system. Any holistic approach would see all of these as part of the whole system in which we operate. Clearly, this public perception of what we mean by ‘the environment' and by ‘environmentalism' is a major obstacle to progress which must be addressed if we are to get anywhere with our efforts. The reality is that if the potentially all embracing nature of ‘environmentalism', covering every part of it, physical and social, was understood it could be very helpful but as things stand we are more likely to be told what ‘environmentalism' means by its opponents than by its proponents.
THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Turning to the contemporary approach of the Australian Government to the matter of developing a vision for the future, what we do have in our country is a kind of default vision of ‘Quarry for The World Australia", one of cashing in on the demand for Australia's minerals as long as possible. I used the word ‘default' because it is a vision created largely by government and business interests, one about which the Australian people have had no say, either about this, or about the alternatives. There was no choice. All other major decisions of government apart from the American alliance are minor aspects of this. Fossil fuel exports are sacred and beyond question. As things are the only recent suggested change is the proposal from Julia Gillard that Australia could also become a "food superpower". Speaking to a Global Foundation Conference in Melbourne on 3rd May, 2012 the Prime Minister said "just as we have become a minerals and energy giant, Australia can be a great provider of high-quality food". The only matter which has been under discussion other than the amount to be taken by means of the Mining Rent Tax is how it should be spent and here we have two schools of thought: either create a sovereign wealth fund to meet social needs; or invest the money in infrastructure to drive future economic growth. The environmental impact of our carbon use on carbon emissions and economic growth is virtually ignored yet if you include our exports Australia is already the third largest carbon emitter on earth and by 2020 it is estimated that Australian carbon exports will be twice the carbon exports of Saudi Arabia. But, in the contemporary political scenario, what chance have citizens to have any input on this disastrous course of events? A major feature of our economy is of course our competitive approach to trade in the world at large creating the so called "two speed economy". We have the Hawke and Keating Governments to blame for the removal of the protection of our manufacturing industries.
You might expect that discussions about Australia's future population might have provided a forum for discussion about Australia's future more generally and indeed a couple of years ago we did have some statements by successive Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard about whether or not their preference was ‘A Big Australia' or a ‘Sustainable Australia'. Mainly this was to do with providing a context for policy on immigration levels. However, anyone who takes a careful look at official reports on Australia's population over the last 50 years will find that these have contributed few ideas about a sustainable future. In fact they made little or no difference to the course Australia was taking and that includes the 2011 ‘Sustainable Population for Australia Strategy'. Like all other discussions the matter of population was largely separated from the bigger question of where Australia should be going. Kelvin Thomson recently described it as a missed opportunity to map out a direction for Australia's future. I notice that Paul Ehrlich speaking in Sydney last year also said that nothing significant was being done on the population front. Of course the failure of conservation groups to make an impression on this debate is to be regretted. To a considerable affect their voice has been limited by political correctness. For instance the ACF a few years ago abandoned a 15 year old action policy of pressing for nil net migration on the spurious ground that this would affect our capacity to take refugees.
A recent window into Australia's visionless society and the absence of any alternative for people to collect around has been provided by discussion about the ‘Occupy' movement. The people involved, although operating on a direct democracy basis, appear to have ventilated a number of grievances that they have with the present system without saying anything at all about overall system change. Media commentators, seemingly feeling at something of a loss as to how to understand them, have labelled them as being "frustrated" saying they are not against the system, what they want is a fairer share and more opportunities to better themselves. In other words here again all we need to do is just fix this bit of our present system.
POST SECOND WORLD WAR HISTORY OF ENVIRONMENTALISM
A remarkable fact of history is that after World War Two we did actually have a reality check about the State of the Planet and the increasing pressure of people on it. In 1948 Fairfield Osborn in his book ‘Our Plundered Planet' and William Vogt in his ‘Road to Survival' dealt respectively with the serious depletion of the earth's resource capital and the need for population stabilisation. Vogt recommended a planned parenthood campaign. For two decades after the War the focus was on reconstruction and better planning and then in the late 1960s and early 1970s environmentalism began to shape up as a major political force. The Club of Rome was formed in 1968 and Paul Ehrlich's 1968 ‘The Population Bomb' and Donella Meadows' 1972 ‘The Limits to Growth' publications reiterated the warnings of Vogt and Osborn and the developing conservation movement produced a new perspective by criticising the dysfunctional nature of economic growth. Sir Garfield Barwick, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, called economic growth "a false and unsatisfying god". In a speech to engineers titled ‘Economic Growth and the Environment', published by the ACF in 1971, Barwick quoted extensively from John Stuart Mill's 1848 book ‘Principles of Political Economy' concerning the advantages of a stationary state combined with growth in creativity and suggested replacing our economic growth system with "a stationary system with cyclical re-use of resources". In December, 1969 in a letter to The Age Barwick had referred to ACF's role as being the development of a "blueprint of a conservation policy for the Nation". Mill's stationary state alternative, rebranded as the ‘steady state economy', also began to receive more attention at this time largely, through the work of Herman Daly. Daly for instance edited the publication ‘Toward a Steady State Economy' in 1973 and in 1980 lectured at well attended public meetings in Australia.
Barwick in his 1971 paper argued that our "entire pattern of thinking has to be radically altered". But a radical approach was not to be. That did not stop us from putting more emphasis into taking stock and beginning to produce conservation studies and plans from a national, state regional and local perspective. Beginning in 1980 the world began a phase of producing conservation strategies and state of the environment reports at all geographic levels. In Australia our ‘National Conservation Strategy' was published in 1983 and this was followed by the ‘National Strategy for Sustainable Development' in 1992. The first of several national state of environment reports -‘State of the Environment in Australia' (in 2 volumes) prepared by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment was published in 1985. None of these documents appear to have had any major influence on policy.
THE SITUATION TODAY
Now, after almost 7 decades of actual experience of growth's problems since the end of World War Two and with the world's population having increased threefold in that time and human demand on the Earth's ecosystems (‘the ecological footprint') growing yearly it seems we are less aware of the fundamental cause of the problem - our dysfunctional economic growth dominated system - than we were then and certainly less willing to do anything about it. Governments, in the thrall of the growth philosophy and under the influence of big business, are of course more totally committed to economic growth than ever. According to them if we are not growing then we are failing. If we grow the economy all will be well - everyone will benefit from increased consumption, jobs, taxes, and the trickle down effect generally. The downsides can be tackled by mitigation, adaptation and capitalist driven innovation. they say. Clearly, those who benefit most from economic growth will never agree to anything else but the unwillingness of the environment movement to tackle economic growth full on as a cause is a puzzle. Some commentators argue that we need economic growth to pay for sea walls to defend us against the inevitable rise in sea levels. Others have suggested that what we should do is work out how to adapt to the end of growth, adaptation being the familiar thing for them to do - creating large cooling rooms for refugees during 40 degree plus days is one of the suggestions made recently.
It might be helpful to take a closer look at where things are up to nationally and internationally in 2012 in those parts of the community whose job it is to propose solutions to ensure a sound future for humanity.
SOLUTIONS POSED IN RECENT REPORTS
I will start with the ACF which has began re examining this matter in detail in 1995. In 1996 after extensive consultation with its membership about the role of the Foundation during its second 30 years (Task Force 2025) ACF Council decided to work for a non-economic growth solution. Further reports on implementation were produced but in 1997 the matter of role change was dropped. In July, 2008 ACF decided to have another go and embarked on a ‘Future Economic Thought' project which led to the release of a ‘Better Than Growth' report in 2010. This outlined a number of measures relevant to a transition to a sustainable economy and society but the document did not suggest a holistic alternative to economic growth.
In March 2012 ACF Council finalised on a new strategic plan for 2011- 2020 entitled ‘Transforming Australia Wellbeing for People and Country' setting out the Foundation's ‘Purpose', its ‘Vision for Australia' and ‘Goals for Australia'. I was going to tell you something about this document but its contents are secret until it is officially launched at a date yet to be advised but possibly not this year. I cannot even tell you whether this new document embraces anything like a steady state alternative. That will probably be determined during the next phase of considering the strategy's implementation. At the March 2012 ACF Council meeting concern was expressed by some Councillors about possible leaks during the process of drawing up the plan, an attitude in total contrast with the 2025 exercise in which ACF went to considerable lengths to do the complete opposite - to obtain ACF member's views and suggestions at all stages. My best guess is that ACF is afraid of irritating big business and what might happen through premature exposure. So I must not disclose or share the contents of the plan to you.
Nowhere in ACF's publicly available policy documents of the last forty years is there any mention of what that alternative sustainable future will be in broad economic terms. Forty one years ago ACF President Sir Garfield Barwick was prepared to give it a name. Now we are less certain. It is something to be worked on is our explanation.
I will though continue my examination of recent reports and take quick look at some recent international statements which touch on this fundamental matter in terms of the solutions proposed:
The 2012 OECD report ‘Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction' recommends that "advancing greener growth is the way forward" and notes that "going green can be a long term driver for economic growth".
The 2012 Royal Society report ‘People and the Planet' says population and consumption should not be divided as issues. To reduce inequality it calls for a global social contract providing for a reduction of consumption in rich countries and a global family planning effort everywhere. It recommends a move away from "the irrational idea of perpetual growth with new models exploring long-term sustainable well-being" and a move to "a green economy".
The ‘State of the Planet Declaration' agreed by the co-chairs of the ‘Planet Under Pressure New Knowledge Towards Solutions ‘Conference' held in London in March, 2012 acknowledged the need for integrated solutions for achieving "global sustainability".
THE United Nations Development Program - ‘Asia-Pacific Human Development Report 2012' dealing with the part of the world where half of the world's population live and half of the world's mega cities are located recommends a decoupling approach, claiming that economic growth is necessary to reduce poverty and increase prosperity but that this must involve a shift to a greener economy through sustainable measures such as reduced emissions and education. It does not consider the option of increasing living standards by means of reducing population growth.
Finally, The Worldwatch Institute's latest annual publication ‘State of the World 2012 Moving Towards Sustainable Prosperity' has a number of chapters one of which includes a recommendation for ‘degrowth' which is defined as a "planned and controlled contraction to get back in line with planetary boundaries with the eventual creation of a steady state economic system".
Many of the suggestions in these documents represent tinkering around the edges. The recommendation in that one Chapter of the Worldwatch report is the closest any of these bodies get to mentioning an alternative economic system. Of course ‘sustainable economic growth' and ‘green economic growth' are illusions. They are no brainers in the fullest sense of that phrase. Similarly, it is obvious that having a degrowth or negative growth policy is not enough on its own since if it is to be effective it will need to be accompanied by major changes to institutions such as markets, and profit making since these have been developed to facilitate economic growth and wealth for the main players. One cannot keep the means of economic growth and change the ends to a steady state economy. If these remain there is little chance of an effective change. Decoupling is also a concept suggested by some but it is obvious that gains in efficiency could never keep up with endless economic growth and the increased consumption. Efficiency gains generally lead to increased consumption of natural resources. To work decoupling must be accompanied by an end to economic growth. The best avenues to greater equity in a finite world are through smaller populations and redistribution.
The lesson is that the solution must be comprehensive and the different parts must be complementary, not in opposition to one another.
There is of course a big picture solution - the steady state economy' alternative - which has been waiting in the wings since 1848 and which I will now finally turn to.
DEFINITION AND PRINCIPLES OF THE STEADY STATE ECONOMY
CASSE defines a steady state economy as being one "with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption".
Herman Daly's short definition for the steady state economy is "one that develops qualitatively (by improvement in science, technology and ethics) without growing quantitatively in the physical dimensions".
Our current universal ‘economic growth' model by contrast involves an increase in the production of goods and services - an endless increase in the amount of materials processed, consumed and disposed of as waste. This concept of economic growth started out as a means to the end of creating wealth and power and improving standards of living in a less crowded world but it and population growth became goals with such things as competition, trade, and profit making developed as major means to those ends. Although running up against the physical limits of the world, change is unlikely unless we find another way or wait until there is a ‘planetary shipwreck'.
The principles which underpin the steady state economy alternative are concerned with both the relationship of people and the environment and the relationship between people.
The FIRST PRINCIPLE concerns the rate and scale of resource use. Instead of endlessly increasing the use of resources to provide for and stimulate more consumption we will use resources at a sustainable rate - at a rate related to the natural processes of renewal, and the capacity of the environment to deal with waste. In other words in the steady state economy there will be a stable level of material throughput at a level and scale which can be maintained indefinitely. This of course includes complete reliance on renewable resources including energy.
The SECOND PRINCIPLE concerns the goal of social equality. It is the opposite of our present system which is inequitable as well as being materialistic, competitive, individualistic and elitist. Our present system justifies disparities in wealth, education, health and justice by saying that these are necessary to provide an incentive for growth in the form of rewards for those who do well and that growth will improve standards of living for all through the trickle down effect. In the steady state, in complete contrast, there will be full and true equality everywhere. Co-operation will replace competition as the main goal and form of social interaction.
MAIN FEATURES OF THE STEADY STATE ECONOMY:
So, what will be the main features of the steady state economy?
To begin with in the steady state economy, to achieve sustainability, people will live within the earth's means, relating their use of its resources to its environmental capacity through their close relationship to it. They will have direct control of the environment where they live and full respect for it. They will be as concerned for the long term welfare of the environment as they are for its welfare during their lifetimes. This will be achieved partly by people living in small communities, producing most of their own food and other materials. In this way they will have not only have a close knowledge of their environment but an absolute stake in its future.
At the same time the new relationship with people will involve true equality. Not today's flawed concept of equal opportunity for all to climb the ladder to success (which along with the alleged need for competition is used as a justification for inequality) but equal treatment in every respect, including equal access to food, housing, and other services. It will be a non-hierarchical society. No one will be superior to another. There will be respect for all. In the steady state people will gain satisfaction from developing and exercising their skills and from contributing to the well being of the community. It is important with regard to this step that that it is understood that inequality is one of the major facilitators of the Economic Growth system and that unless it is dismantled it will impede the move to a Steady State Economy.
As far as governance is concerned all major decisions will be made by direct participation and will largely be at the local community level, by community assemblies.. There will also be inter community cooperation. People will have a real say. I envisage that there will be some measure of representative democracy to assist with inter community and regional and international coordination and communication but even at this level any major decisions to do with resources will involve everyone having a say.
Perhaps I can make this vision clearer by referring to what are likely to be some of its major features.
First population. The world's population is likely to eventually be much smaller. I notice that Paul Ehrlich has suggested 1.5 to 2 billion as a sustainable population for the earth (2 billion was what it was 80 years ago - in my lifetime). The goals of true equality will be greatly assisted by having smaller populations reducing consumption and making more available for everyone through redistribution.
With regard to trade in the steady state I envisage that there would be some inter regional trade within nations but no international trade in goods. In fact I believe the situation in the transition would be pretty much as described by John Maynard Keynes in his 1933 book on National Self Sufficiency. In it he wrote:
"Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel - these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun, whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and above all let finance be primarily national."
Needless to say there will be no profit making in the steady state. This is an extra and unnecessary cost whose main purpose today is to enable some to become wealthier than others. As pointed out by Peter Lock in the present system money is made out of trading in money and through the manipulation of debt unrelated to physical resources and facilitation of the exchange of goods and services(an extrinsic resource), or as Herman Daly puts it, "creating money out of nothing and lending it at interest". Banks are major players in this game and as things are if they happen to get into trouble Governments rush in to prop them up.
I have suggested that the dominant settlement form would be small local communities. Some congregation of people around communications and inter regional coordination hubs might be expected but there would be no place for the huge cities of today built on a foundation of international trade and manufacturing and drawing their food, energy and water from huge tributary areas.
With regard to ownership all resources and such things as houses and transport systems are owned by the community. This does not mean that individuals and families would not have a long lasting attachment with particular areas though a leasehold type of arrangement
With regard to technological innovation this will be focussed on continued improvements in such things as energy supply and transport.
Finally, in the steady state the military will have been made redundant by the development of environmental security.
As you know most of today's trends are in the opposite direction to the steady state goal. Populations continue to soar, as does the proportion living in cities. The major powers are planning to upgrade their nuclear weapons. Australia appears to be as committed to the US military alliance as it ever was. We could have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Most transport is by private means. In terms of resources we are scouring the world for fossil fuels, and the rain forests are still being destroyed. As Macfarlane Burnet predicted in the late 1950s, in this scenario all has to give way to the mission of providing for continued economic growth. Few nations, except perhaps China, have full control of their trade and industry. In Australia for instance 80 % of the mining industry is foreign owned. Rich nations are buying up land in other countries to maintain their growth ambitions.
With regard to equality the gap between rich and poor is increasing. In Australia the richest 20% own 62% of household net worth. In the USA the 1% own 40% of the nation's wealth and receive more than 20% of the income. A rich man can earn more in a single bonus than a hard working poor man earns in a lifetime. We explain these things away by saying that people need an incentive in a competitive world whereas the truth is that inequality and lack of government control are major forces helping to drive economic growth and environmental destruction.
To achieve the twin goals of sustainability and equality there will need to be some very major adjustments to how people live. Taking a short cut one could say simply that everything to do with resource use and social interaction will eventually be the opposite of today but I think we need to think carefully about how we go about making the change. To transform to a steady state economy we need to check each step contemplated against the principles or goals. We also need to carefully consider whether what is contemplated is something that will enhance the move to a steady state by removing those measures which have been developed to facilitate economic growth such as capitalism, free trade, fossil fuel exploitation and wage inequalities. So, understanding the relationship between ends and means in the economic growth and steady state alternatives is very important for this process.
Obviously, even if we decide to work for a steady state economy it is not going to happen in the near future. As a result the important thing is for us to focus on changes which will help bring it about. There will, of course, need to be considerable efforts in the field of rehabilitation including the reclamation and recycling of cities and we will need to deal with the massive over population that is going to be with us for a long time to come.
Since international trade plays a major role in facilitating economic growth this is something that warrants immediate serious attention. We need to end globalisation and introduce measures which place penalties on both dangerous and unwarranted exports and imports. For instance:
a) phase out Australia's exports of fossil fuels beginning with coal;
To achieve stable populations:
a) end the incentives aimed at increasing family size/provide incentives for small families;
In general this problem will be solved when populations are reduced to levels which match the long term capacity of where people live.
To achieve a greater level of living within our means and re-localisation:
a) sponsor sustainable (environmentally friendly) local energy supply systems independent of the national grid;
For improved peace and security:
a) phase out all nuclear weapons over a fixed period;
To improve the communities control of their destinies:
a) end foreign ownership of land and resources (carry out buyback schemes);
JUSTICE AND WELL BEING
To create a fairer world:
a) make all education and health services free to all and of an equal standard;
The following will improve governance:
a) limit the influence of private corporations by for instance banning their donations to politicians and political parties;
REHABILITATION AND RESOURCE DEPLETION
Depending upon how long it takes us to switch to a Steady State Economy there will be an enormous rehabilitation task ahead of us. Reducing the use of resources and pollution should obviously be the major target of taxation. A very large international effort will be required to help nations and communities achieve self sufficiency. Nationally each country will be well advised to create more jobs in environmental restoration through bodies such as the Conservation Corps or Green Corps.
I said earlier that you are more likely to be told what the steady state will be like by its opponents than by people in the general conservation movement. They do it of course to defend the economic growth system which they equate with freedom.
One of those people is Vaclav Klaus the President of the Czech Republic who addressed the National Press Club in July, 2011. Klaus expressed the view that environmentalism threatens to return us to the communism he experienced earlier in his life. It is this, usually unspoken, fear that inhibits discussion of the steady state alternative for instance in the media where it is a big ‘No No'. I have had editors tell me this, that life in the Steady State would be like life behind the Iron Curtain therefore their pages are closed to its explanation. The reality is that the Steady State as I have explained it will be the opposite of the authoritarian regimes of the former Soviet Union and present day China - both committed to economic growth and employing central control. In other words it will be grass roots bottom up situation. The freedom Klaus talks about as existing today is illusionary. Tell that to the I billion people living in poverty around the world or to the unemployed of the USA. The Steady State approach will be the opposite of authoritarianism because it will involve governance by the people at the local level by the direct form of democracy. People will no longer have their lives decided by distant bureaucrats or destructive market forces beyond their control. Of course if economic growth is not replaced we will almost certainly have a major phase of conflict as the rich and powerful step up their fight over scarce resources to an unprecedented level.
What about Australia's potential role in all this? Obviously the steady state movement if it is to have any chance of going anywhere will require leadership. Our present role as a Quarry and as a security aid to the USA presently disqualifies us from such a role as it would if Australia simply transferred its security role to China.
Looking on the bright side Australia is arguably not overpopulated and is well placed to help other nations achieve self sufficiency. But Australia will not act unless there is a powerful grass roots demand for this to happen. Over to people like you!
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