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Zero growth proposes that growth itself is bad, but appears not to define growth clearly. In the Zero Growth Creed, no reference is made to what kind of growth is meant.
Growth of what?
If society as a whole has a target of zero GDP growth, which "GDP" is referred to? Nominal? Chain volume measures? Another type? (See Wikipedia: Gross domestic product #Types of GDP and GDP growth.) Does it matter?
To safeguard the environment, isn't it more important to consider the amount of non-renewable consumption, rather than total consumption or whether it's growing in a particular community? (Even this measure is of limited use, as a small amount of very inefficient consumption, with waste products and waste heat, may have more impact than a large consumption where waste products are downcycled.)
To make "zero growth" meaningful, we must ask: Exactly what kind of growth needs to end? Growth in specific aspects of the economy? Growth in resource and impact rather than economic measures? Then find a way of expressing that.
Problems with zero growth in GDP
If zero growth in GDP is the aim, the creed apparently ignores the difference between consumption of resources and growth in economic terms. For example:
- Services which consume few or no resources still contribute to GDP - e.g. a massage, tutoring, building a permaculture garden, making bicycles from scrap using an industrial ecology process, or delivery by foot or cycle.
- A service specifically to reduce resource use (e.g. a consultant identifying a way of providing more services by more efficient use of existing resources, and charging fees for their service) adds to GDP.
- If prices fall rapidly overall (i.e. a deflationary period) and output increases, then nominal GDP could decrease whilst consumption increases. Chain volume measures would increase, however.[verification needed]
- Switching from one's usual purchase to a more efficient, higher quality and more expensive product may increase GDP (both nominal and chain volume measures?[verification needed]) while decreasing resource consumption. To put it another way, consider two forms of consumption where the cheaper one has a higher resource usage - a change of behavior to the cheaper consumption would decrease GDP (of both forms?[verification needed]) but increase overall resource usage.
Further reading: "Zero growth" economics, 1 September 2009, by Austin Lund on the Public Polity blog.
- If we ration growth, who gets what’s left?
- Do the poor have the right to growth? Should they stay at their low level of wealth while the rich stay at a high level?
- What does this mean for NGOs working with the poor, or governments of the poor - are they not allowed to address poverty if it causes growth?
An economy may be perceived as an ecosystem (and Natural Capitalism, for example, delves deeply into that metaphor). Some ecosystems such as tropical rainforests are exceptionally efficient, being full of life and growth, and yet wasting nothing to the outside, reusing everything, taking in a continually available resource (sunlight), using, and cleaning and putting out another resource (water).
Perceived constrains may be just that, a perception rather than reality. Bright green environmentalism aims for a society that relies on new technology and improved design to achieve gains in ecological sustainability thereby increasing the potential for economic growth and attending to human needs. Ways of thinking such as abundance and thrivability tend to assume both present ability to do things better, and future ability to achieve more with less resources.
An economic way of looking at it is that instead of trying to use economic statistics as a measure of environmental damage or resource use, more suitable measures should be used - perhaps a whole array of social and environmental statistics. Goals for the economy as a whole may use these statistics as parameters or limits within which to operate.
- This page started as a series of questions by a contributor who frankly admits that zero growth makes no sense to him, so there may be straw man arguments here.
- Sustainability and economic growth
- Bright green environmentalism
- Technology for 10 billion people
- No such thing as waste
- Economic impact of climate change measures
- Earth Democracy, a book by Vandana Shiva.
- Development as economic growth
- Post scarcity
- Growth Busters
- Hooked on Growth: documentary on the post-growth economy, Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation blog, 31st July 2009