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Living Within Ecological Limits CENTER for the ADVANCEMENT of the STEADY STATE ECONOMY WILD LAW Conference Queensland Conservatorium 28 September 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Living Within Ecological Limits CENTER for the ADVANCEMENT of the STEADY STATE ECONOMY WILD LAW Conference Queensland Conservatorium 28 September 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Living Within Ecological Limits CENTER for the ADVANCEMENT of the STEADY STATE ECONOMY WILD LAW Conference Queensland Conservatorium 28 September 2013 Southbank, Brisbane Richard Sanders Director, Queensland Chapter CASSE

2 2 Introduction  Anthropocene – Planetary emergency where absolute scarcity is new reality  Think piece on implications of absolute scarcity for legal, financial, economic and governance institutions  Not my field of expertise – some thoughts from the emergent systems view of reality  I will skim through to sow some seeds to spend a little time on a possible way out of this mess

3 3 Structure  Absolute scarcity vs. Relative scarcity  Legal, financial, economic and governance systems of Industrial Revolution assumed endless growth – consequences for sustainability  Ecological reality and nested systems theory  Thoughts on new institutions for sustainability  A liberating way forward

4 4 Absolute Scarcity  Relative scarcity is a concept from economics  Economists talk of the scarcity of one thing to another – price is ratio of relative scarcities  Relative scarcity translates into infinite abundance of resources – infinite substitution  Reality is absolute scarcity as scale of human enterprise has grown exponentially creating a planetary emergency - Examples

5 5 Theoretical Framework  Nested (holarchical) systems and thermodynamic (ecological) limits (Nature’s Laws)  Economy is dependent subsystem of society is dependent subsystem of ecology (biosphere)  Rule – subsystems must not behave in ways that undermine integrity of greater systems – this has implications for governance and sustainability  Sustainability Rule – low entropy must be consumed no more quickly than Nature produces it – low entropy is absolutely scarce!

6 6 Institutions - Legal  Guth (2008, 466) identifies the legal system as the primary driver of unsustainability:  “the legal and economic structures adopted to promote the Industrial Revolution were grounded in assumptions of endless economic growth.”  Assumptions reasonable in “empty world”  Invalid in “full world”  The truth about absolute scarcity is that it renders our current legal, financial, economic and governance institutions obsolete

7 7 Institutions - Legal cont’d  Under the legal system individuals and corporations have the right to pursue profits through development on the assumption that this leads to the net benefit of society.  only grounds to reject a development are where a cost-benefit analysis demonstrates the costs of the project outweigh the benefits.  2 problems Discounting Cumulative impacts

8 8 Institutions - Legal cont’d  Discounting benefits generally accrue in the short term and costs in the longer term so it is mathematically unlikely that costs will outweigh benefits as they are much more heavily discounted.  Cumulative impacts under law, consideration is limited to the merits of the single project and it is not possible to take account of the cumulative impacts of a large number of developments in a region or catchment

9 9 Institutions - Financial System  Fractional reserve banking drives exponential growth – it’s a pyramid scheme  Private banks create new money as interest bearing debt  World’s money growing at 6% compounding for past 300 years – 6% for 1992 years  Money is not wealth but a claim on wealth

10 10 Institutions - Financial System  Sustainability problem = exponentially growing claims on natural capital realised through globalised markets  Financial system drives ever increasing inequity  Financial system is a pyramid scheme and will collapse at some point  This design of financial system will lead inevitably to ecological breakdown, ever increasing inequity and eventual financial system collapse no matter where in the universe it is adopted

11 11 Institutions - Economics  Economic theory is fundamentally flawed – economics can in principle deliver neither efficiency nor maximise the welfare of society – if anything it does the opposite  Economy does not operate according to economic theory anyway  Reality is chrematistics - art of making money  The financial and economic systems constitute a system of power that transfers effort and purchasing power up the pyramid from the many to the few

12 12 Institutions - Governance  Nested systems theory tells us we need governance to constrain subsystems such that they don’t undermine the integrity of the greater systems of which they are part.  Individual behaviour needs to be constrained to ensure the common good  Vehicles of governance have been hijacked by those who don’t believe in it Deregulation ‘Govern’ for vested interests Disinterested and disengaged public Propaganda - How Corporations Take the Risk Out of Democracy (Alex Carey, 1997)

13 13 Another way is needed  “this much is clear: exceeding the ecologically sustainable assimilative capacity of the Earth is the inevitable result of the economic path the common law has set us on. Neither the current law nor, the market it shapes, contain any way to stop it.” (Joseph Guth, 2008)  Indeed, as suggested so far the entwined legal, financial, economic and governance institutions structurally drive the multi-dimensional planetary emergency that threatens the future of human civilisation  So what are the options for a sustainable world?

14 14 New Institutions - Legal  Ecological tort Guth (2008) proposes a tort of ecological degradation that places liability for ecological degradation on the individual and gives standing to any member of the community to bring an action for ecological degradation.  Fundamental transformation of the System  Common property  Usufruct title

15 15 New Institutions - Financial  Financial system is basis of capitalism – private (privaré) accumulation of wealth is not an option!  100% reserve financial system  100% reserve can fund the transformation of society to an ecologically sustainable basis  Production and absolutely scarce resources can be oriented to needs of all rather than biased to wants of the few

16 16 New Institutions - Economic  Cooperatives  Permaculturise the suburbs  Meet needs primarily through social relations  National/Continental physical budget constraints  Rationing of the essentials that need to be mass produced

17 17 New Institutions - Governance  Based on Earth Law and the primacy of planetary ecological integrity  Nested system of governance reflecting nested reality  We can be governed by god, king, corporate or ourselves - consumers become citizens again  ‘We, the people’ reclaim democracy from the hijackers

18 18 A Way Forward  Planetary Dialogues – Freirean Dialogue held globally monthly  Awaken to our enslavement in an evil system of power rooted in key institutions and seek our liberation from it  Awaken to ecocide, inequity and collapse  A Liberating Vision of new civilisation to realise very best of our humanity  Reclaim our systems of governance

19 19 The CASSE Position  Position statement on economic growth Recognises the conflict between growth and environmental protection Calls for the transition to a SSE  Purpose Demonstrate the level of support for a SSE Advance the SSE in policy discussions  Endorsements > people, >200 organisations

20 Thank you! CENTER for the ADVANCEMENT of the STEADY STATE ECONOMY Richard Sanders Director, Queensland Chapter CASSE

21 21 Introduction  This is a story about our Survival  All about a shift to a more valid paradigm  Physical impossibility and political impossibility

22 22 Introduction  We live on a spaceship  A ball of rock hurtling through space cloaked in a thin veil of life – the biosphere  The web of life continually replenishes the biosphere and keeps it in a stable far from equilibrium state unlike the Moon or Mars  The biosphere is like a solar powered factory  It is the primary economy and spontaneously produces matter and energy that is concentrated, structured and organised and therefore is useful

23 23 Planetary Emergency  Most of the ecological and biophysical gauges in the cockpit of spaceship are in the red zone  We are in a planetary emergency!  Impacts are so great – Anthropocene - a new era  In terms of Ecological Life Support:  CO 2 is at 390 ppm. Safe level is 350 ppm  Sixth major extinction event of all time  Humanity has overshot the carrying capacity of the planet

24 24 Planetary Boundaries  Study in Nature in Rockstrom et al. 2009, Nature 461:  Nine planetary boundaries that define the “safe operating space” for humanity on the planet  Relate to earth-system processes: 1. Climate change 2. Biodiversity loss 3. Nitrogen and phosphorous cycles 4. Stratospheric ozone depletion 5. Ocean acidification 6. Global freshwater use 7. Change in land use 8. Atmospheric aerosol loading 9. Chemical pollution

25 25 Planetary Boundaries Source: Rockstrom et al. 2009, Nature 461:

26 26 Global Ecological Overshoot  We are in a state of overshoot Resources are being used faster than they can be regenerated Wastes are being produced faster than they can be assimilated  Economic growth is liquidating our planet’s ecosystems and will lead to the collapse of human civilisation Source: Global Footprint Network The World

27 27 The Sustainability Problem  The physical scale of the global economy can no longer be sustained  Decades of economic growth has not addressed the growing gap between rich and poor  Economic growth is the root of the multi- dimensional planetary emergency that threatens the future of human civilisation

28 28 Steady State Economics  Internationally agreed sustainability criteria are inter- and intra-generational equity  Intergenerational equity – non declining stocks of the various forms of critical natural capital through time = steady state  intra-generational equity

29 29 Steady State Economics  Herman Daly/ CASSE recommendation - Transition to 100% reserve financial system  Impose ecological and equity constraints on the economy and use the market to allocate resources within those constraints  Fractional reserve financial system on any planet would result in overshoot, growing inequity and GFC (structurally locked in – not because of greed)

30 30 Steady State Economics  Can the market allocate within the constraint?  Absolute scarcity cannot be allocated by the market  Polanyi - economic relations separate us

31 31 Return to the Commons  A return to the Commons?  Rights for Nature  Usufruct rights for humans


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