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On limits to economic growth and environmental impact

Grierson, David (2009) On limits to economic growth and environmental impact. In: Second International Global Studies Conference, 2009-05-16.

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Abstract

Applying thermodynamic laws to economics suggests that all production that uses material and energy eventually transforms them into a more random, chaotic, or disordered, state. Economics should be redefined within a sustainable society that manifests more than a bottom-line mentality. The most glaring economic trend to emerge in recent years is the growing gap between rich and poor. The poorest 20 percent of the world's population command just 1.1 percent of global income, while the richest 20 percent claims 86 percent. Over the next thirty years two billion people will be added to the cities of the developing world. This massive urbanisation will cause an exponential growth in the volume of resources consumed and pollution created. And yet half of this growing urban population will live without adequate shelter, electricity, sanitation or running water. They will swell the ranks of the 600 million people who already live in life-threatening urban environments. The complex interrelationship and interdependence of urban areas and their surrounding hinterland has been examined by Rees et al (1994). The term is used to collectively define these relationships is the ecological footprint of cities. These footprints define the city's source of resources and its sites for waste disposal and pollution. This paper identifies key components and characteristics of the zero-growth argument and describes factors determining urban growth limits. It supports the view that the level of consumption of natural resources by modern industrial economies and the process of urbanisation remains very high and represents a truly massive scale of environmental alteration.