Less is more

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Damnthematrix's picture
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Less is more

Letter in today's edition of Nature by the same geneticist that wrote the
article in Trends in Genetics, "Less is more: decreasing the number of
scientific conferences to promote economic degrowth." Regards, Michael.


Nature 457, 147 (8 January 2009) | doi:10.1038/457147b; Published online 7
January 2009

Western prosperity is based on resources that are running out
Hervé Philippe1

Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, 2900 Edouard Montpetit,
H3C 3J7 Montréal, Québec, Canada
Email: [email protected]

In response to the lack of a flagship achievement by economics, as noted by
Jean-Philippe Bouchaud in his Essay 'Economics needs a scientific
revolution' (Nature 455, 1181; 2008), Jesper Stage proposes in
Correspondence that the prosperity of western societies is one such
achievement ('Speaking up for economic-sciences modelling' Nature 456, 570;
2008). However, this prosperity is mainly based on the use of non-renewable
resources and therefore is probably spurious.

Several hundred million years were needed to form the fossil energy that
will be exhausted during a few hundred years. This is roughly equivalent to
spending all one's annual income during the first 30 seconds of a year. In
particular, the frenzy to automate processes in order to increase
competitiveness leads to rapid exhaustion of available resources, for
example through over-fishing or degradation of soils.

All current growth-based economic models imply massive use of non-renewable
resources and environmental degradation. These models are not sustainable,
even in the short term.

As early as 160 years ago, John Stuart Mill affirmed that "the richest and
most prosperous countries would very soon attain the stationary state"
(Principles of Political Economy Longmans, 1848). In contrast to that time,
when resources were being used up at a rate that was several orders of
magnitude slower than today, a phase of economic degrowth is necessary
before a stationary state can be reached. It would be a major achievement of
economics to achieve such a degrowth without social and political disasters.

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