A debate on the limits to environmentalism

[Articles and opinion pieces published in this blog do not necessarily reflect the policies and opinions of the organizers of the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. They are posted here to stimulate discussion and debate on issues relevant to degrowth.]

Keith Kloor, a freelance journalist kicks off a debate via Discovery Magazine on green economics vs what he calls doom and gloom, citing a new UK Royal Society report entitled People and the Planet.

Discovery Magazine: The Limits to Environmentalism

In another article, he writes:

There is a battle underway for the soul of environmentalism. It is a battle between traditionalists and modernists. Who prevails is likely to be determined by whose vision for the future is chosen by a new generation of environmentalists.

The Guardian’s EcoAudit blog jumps in with a series of comments under the heading Does consumption need tackling before population?

Lots of fodder here.

  • UK Green Party candidate Chris Goodall in the Guardian: “What an astonishingly weak, cliché ridden report this is…’Consumption’ to blame for all our problems? Growth is evil? A rich economy with technological advances is needed for radical decarbonisation. I do wish scientists would stop using their hatred of capitalism as an argument for cutting consumption.”
  • Keith Kloor in Discovery: “I mention the 40-year old Limits to Growth book in connection with the new Royal Society report not just to point up their Malthusian similarities, but also to demonstrate what a time warp the collective environmental mindset is stuck in.”
  • Oxfam UK’s CEO Barbara Stocking in the Guardian: “The planet has sufficient resources to sustain a population of that size but we can only ensure a sustainable future for all if we address grossly unequal levels of consumption”
  • Matt Ridley in the Guardian: [The Royal Society] argues that the more people there are and the richer they are, the more resources they consume. True. But it does not follow that the damage they do to the planet is greater. In important ways it gets less. Why are many ecological and conservation problems worst in poor countries?
  • An Adam Smith Institute senior fellow and “global expert on the metal scandium” called Tim Worstall says the Royal Society should withdraw its “appallingly bad” report and “work on fixing both the factual and logical errors before trying to tell the rest of us how to live our lives”.
  • Others wading or dragged into the debate include John Vidal, Paul Erlich, the Union for African Population Studies, Tim Jackson (one of the authors of the report) and others. I expect a cogent contribution will come soon enough from the ranks of the degrowth “movement”.

Good weekend reading for all you degrowthers, if you have the time!

Bob

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