—Beyond Oil: the Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades; John Gever et al.; 1986; p. 121
This is the computer-modeled effect upon GNP of the transition
from the easy way of getting dinosaur blood to the hard way —an entire
generation of declining standard of living: something definitely new in the
The technical and economic problems involved in achieving sustainability are not that difficult. The hard problem is overcoming our addiction to growth as the favored way to assert our creative power, and the idolatrous belief —whether we think in religious terms or not— that our derived creative power is autonomous and unlimited. Such idolatry cannot admit that the elimination of poverty requires recognition of limits, not faster growth —limits to growth in per capita resource use, limits to population growth, limits to the growth of inequality. Refusal to recognize these creaturely limits results in growth beyond the carrying capacity of the earth, with its consequent destruction, followed by a reduction in cumulative number of lives ever to be lived in conditions of material sufficiency, as well as in the premature deaths of many people now living below sufficiency.
We must face the failures of the growth idolatry. We must stop crying out to the growing economy, "Deliver me, for thou art my god!" Instead, we must have the courage to ask with Isaiah, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
—Beyond Growth: the Economics of Sustainable Development; Herman E. Daly; p.224;
—Beyond Oil: the Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades; John Gever et al.; 1986; p. 225.
This models the difference between (A) starting early to solve the problem of transition to a world of much less transportation fuel and (B) waiting until the last moment —the net energy available to society from waiting passes through a period of perilous scarcity.
The growth and progress upon which we looked back with such pride had committed mankind to living on a scale that exceeds the sustainable carrying capacity of the finite planet, and the leaders of nations continued to devote far more effort toward attempting to prolong overshoot than toward undoing it. Reluctance to face facts was driving us to make matters worse. The faster the present generation draws down the fossil energy legacy upon which persistently exuberant lifestyles now depend, the less opportunity posterity will have to live in anything like the same way or the same numbers. Yet most contemporary political proposals for solving problems of economic stagnation or inequity amount to plans for speeding up the rate of drawdown of non-renewable resources.
—Overshoot: the Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change; William R. Catton, Jr.; p. 38.
The assumptions of classical economics have, over the last two hundred years, been widely accepted in western, industrialised societies. There is, however, a fundamental flaw in classical economics (and the modern systems derived from it —Marxist, welfare, Keynesian and ultra liberal economics). They all ignore the problem of resource depletion and deal only with the secondary problem of the distribution of resources between different competing ends. The crucial defect is that the earth's resources are treated as capital —a set of assets to be turned into a source of profit. Trees, wildlife, minerals, water and soil are treated as commodities to be sold or developed. More important, their price is simply the cost of extracting them and turning them into marketable commodities. (Some such as air never even enter a market mechanism.) Yet this view overlooks the basic truth that the resources of the earth are not just scarce, they are finite. Since classical economics is unable to incorporate this fact into its analysis, the economic systems based upon it encourage both the producer and consumer to use up available resources at whatever rate current conditions dictate. It assumes, in defiance of all logic, that resources, in terms of materials and energy, are inexhaustible, that growth in the overall level of the economy can continue for ever and that substitution of one material or form of energy for another can continue indefinitely even though in reality the total supply is limited. In this system there is no way that current prices, and therefore levels of economic activity, can take account of the problems that will have to be faced in the future. Indeed, if the most rational action for humans is, as classical economics suggests, to pursue immediate self-interest, then there is no need to take account of posterity. But since in the real world resources are finite, consuming them now has a very real price —they are not available for future generations.
—A Green History of the World; Clive Ponting; p. 155-6.