Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Comment from William Leiss on Peter Victor's Nature Commentary, "Questioning Economic Growth"

William Leiss

"Given the size of the increase in the human population over the last century, and more recently the scale of the first stages of creating an industrialized, high-consumption economy in China, it's surprising how hard it remains to get a serious discussion about the issues raised in Peter Victor's little paper – or, obviously, to get any serious consideration of them at a "political" or public policy level.
There was a brief flurry of interest in them during the 1970s, and then these issues vanished again. To what has been discussed already I would add the theme I have taken from the older utopian literature, namely, that true satisfaction lies in the zone of intrinsically-satisfying labour, not in industrial goods consumption. This is easily dismissed as an expression of "hippie" or "luddite" mentality, but that is merely a proof of how hard it is to get a fair consideration for the underlying issues. We all need sufficient nutrition and the other necessities of life, including modern medicine, and literacy as well as a well-rounded education; we need peace and security against war and terrorism. We need to be bound together as a species and to have access to the heritage of world civilization, which the Internet can enable, including, eventually, virtual access through high-resolution imagery to the entirety of the world's artistic heritage. Everyone on earth (with reasonable limits to total population growth) could have access to everything on this list at a level of impact on the world's space and resources far below what currently obtains. It will be obvious what is omitted from this list. Is it really "morally outrageous" to think that we need to impose such limits on ourselves, both for our own sake and for the sake of the other species which are being squeezed out as a result of our relentlessly-escalating demands? If it is, then we are fated to continue to carry the current experiment to its logical end; and I for one don't think this will result in a happy ending."

1 comment:

  1. Tom,
    Tell me which posts to crosspost on the Dorman debate. (maybe I can help make it one).