Brown, James H., Joseph R. Burger, William R. Burnside, Michael Chang, Ana D. Davidson, Trevor S. Fristoe, Marcus J. Hamilton, Sean T. Hammond, Astrid Kodric-Brown, Norman Mercado-Silva, Jeffrey C. Nekola, Jordan G. Okie. 2014.
‘Macroecology meets macroeconomics: Resource scarcity and global Sustainability.’ Ecological Engineering 65 (2014) 24–32
The current economic paradigm, which is based on increasing human population, economic development, and standard of living, is no longer compatible with the biophysical limits of the finite Earth. Failure to recover from the economic crash of 2008 is not due just to inadequate fiscal and monetary policies. The continuing global crisis is also due to scarcity of critical resources. Our macroecological studies highlight the role in the economy of energy and natural resources: oil, gas, water, arable land, metals, rare earths, fertilizers, fisheries, and wood. As the modern industrial-technological-informational economy expanded in recent decades, it grew by consuming the Earth’s natural resources at unsustainable rates.
Correlations between per capita GDP and per capita consumption of energy and other resources across nations and over time demonstrate how economic growth and development depend on “nature’s capital”. Decades-long trends of decreasing per capita consumption of multiple important commodities indicate that overexploitation has created an unsustainable bubble of population and economy.
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Comment by William Rees
This is a good summary paper drawing together previous analyses and new data on humanity’s determined march to the brink of the abyss. That said, there is little new in the document in terms of trends, interpretation or prognosis. Indeed, the basic story has been retold many times in the past several decades each time with the same effect on subsequent societal directions or prospects for global civilization—namely, none of any consequence. Continue reading