Category Archives: Limits to Growth

Limitations on economic output due to resource constraints.

“Code red for humanity” — what does this even mean?

The High Park Wildfire burns on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland on June 10, 2012. U. S. Forest Service photo (public domain).

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, says that the latest IPCC report is “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable.” Of course, this is not news for many of us. How should we react to this?

Climate is a well-discussed problem, with a variety of “climate action plans” and a variety of climate groups to choose from. You’d think that we’d have action by now! Why is climate, despite all the attention it has gotten, such a difficult subject? Continue reading

Life After Fossil Fuels — review

Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy. Alice J. Friedemann. Lecture Notes in Energy 81. Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2021.

Most people assume that when fossil fuel use ends, we will probably be living with different types of renewable energy, mostly wind turbines and solar power. Allow Alice Friedemann (engineer, architect, and creator of EnergySkeptic.com), to puncture a few of your illusions.

I loved this book. Probably not everyone will be as nerdy about energy issues as I am, but for me it was just what the doctor ordered. Realistic, humorous, objective, this book is oddly hopeful in an apocalyptic sort of way. Alice Friedemann shows us that there is life after fossil fuels, even after the failure of all our dreams about alternative energy, and as industrial civilization crashes down around us. Continue reading

Less is More — review

Less is More. How Degrowth Will Save the World. Jason Hickel. Windmill Books, 2020.

NOTE May 20, 2021: I have altered the first and last lines of this review, see my discussion in the comments below.

Less is More is an important book that seeks to popularize the idea of economic “degrowth,” though it is somewhat flawed in significant details. Degrowth is a deliberate attempt to reduce the physical size of the economy — for example, we should prefer bicycles to cars, and plant foods to animal foods. Degrowth is widely discussed in Europe, where the idea originated. In America, the “heart” of the capitalist beast, it is still a relatively unknown idea.

Jason Hickel is right on his key point in this book. Our economy is already massively unsustainable. If human civilization is to have a future, we cannot continue with the growth economy. This should be the starting point of any discussion about the environment. Continue reading

In defense of drastic moves to curb CO2

This letter to the editor of The Denver Post appeared in today’s paper (February 5, 2021).

Re: “Moves on energy, climate need to be smart,” Jan. 31 letters

Flooding in the US Midwest, 2008. Don Becker, USGS (public domain).

In a recent letter to the editor, someone said that the President’s suspension of oil and gas leases had put him out of business and had failed to stop one CO2 molecule from being released. Good points! To be consistent, we need a “cap-auction-trade” system restricting both the production and consumption of oil. Continue reading

Why isn’t “limits to growth” obvious? (video)

Why isn’t “limits to growth” obvious? We live on a finite planet, with finite resources. The economy depends on these resources. This shouldn’t be that complicated, but somehow it is. If we’re going to deal with the environmental crisis, and get to a vegan world, we need to figure out these questions.

This is my second video on “limits to growth and veganism,” based on the ideas for the talk I gave last fall on “Limits to growth and veganism” via Zoom. Please comment below on questions that you have or things that you’d like to hear more about.

Limits to growth and veganism (video)

What do we mean by “limits to growth”? Why should vegans care?

Last fall I gave a talk on “Limits to growth and veganism” via Zoom. I did make a recording, but the recording quality wasn’t very good, so I produced this YouTube video instead. This isn’t exactly what I said, but it’s closer to what I should have said. Let me know any questions below in the comments.  I haven’t yet covered all the topics I promised to cover, but there will be more such videos.

Talk on “Limits to Growth and Veganism”

I will be giving a talk on “Limits to Growth and Veganism” at the Vegan World 2026 Virtual Convergence. It will be Saturday (TOMORROW, October 31) at 1 PM Mountain Daylight time (= 3 PM Eastern Daylight time = 2 PM Central Daylight time = 12 noon Pacific Daylight).  It will be in the Vegan Infrastructure Room (New Ecology, New Economy, New Governance).   You can get tickets here. They are $49 each, but there is an option to ask to get in free, so no one will be turned away. The links will be sent out to ticket holders.

The convergence will be entirely virtual (you’ll need a PC, laptop, or other device to access it on the internet) and held this weekend (October 31 and November 1). It features Dr. John McDougall (“The Connection between Chronic Disease / Climate Change / COVID19 = Diet”),  Judy Carman (“Homo Ahimsa”), Renee King-Sonnen (the “Rowdy Girl”) and of course Sailesh Rao who will present the “Strategic Action Plan,” among many others. Continue reading

Weird politics 2

VOTE poster (1920) from the League of Women Voters. Public domain.

The President’s bizarre behavior and statements during the first 2020 Presidential debate on Tuesday amplified political weirdness. Many people are concerned that he could seriously impair or destroy the integrity of the elections. Americans are living in separate realities right now, each with its own “alternative facts.” If we can’t agree on basic realities, it is inevitable that public debate is going to degenerate, and the President has certainly accelerated this process.

Don’t panic yet: the smart money is on democracy to win in November, and the debate seemed to help the challenger. But what are the issues over which we are potentially ripping the country apart? Continue reading

Fire Blog 2

Fighting the Pine Gulch Fire. Source:
Bureau of Land Management (public domain)

Colorado is burning, California and Oregon are burning, and the world is burning. The coronavirus pandemic distracted our momentary amazement at the breadth and depth of the Australia fires earlier this year (remember them?). The pandemic was itself a consequence of our fascination with killing and eating animals; it started with eating pangolins, and it’s being spread through slaughterhouses. Now, America is literally on fire. We are destroying animals and trees wholesale and we’re noticing that the air is unhealthy. Continue reading

Is wilderness gone already?

Bull elephant from Sabi Sands of South Africa. Photo by Lee R. Berger. Source.

The pandemic has hurt “wildlife tourism” and endangered the wildlife which drew in the tourists. The Guardian announced (May 5) that, “Ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife,” and The Washington Post adds (July 17) that this tourism “is essential to wildlife conservation in many African countries.”

These reports are all very true, but send the wrong message and obscure an important reality: wilderness is almost completely gone already. Instead of preserving wilderness, we should be trying to re-establish wilderness. Continue reading

Basic income and veganism

Basic income demonstration in Berlin, 2013. Credit: stanjourdan, https://www.flickr.com/people/39524850@N04, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Systemic, radical changes in the United States are now in the cards. You can feel it in the news and in the streets, even with COVID-19 acting as a damper on protests. But we haven’t had much discussion of what specifically these changes should be. We know—though mainstream economists still haven’t figured it out—that economic growth isn’t the answer: we have hit the limits to growth. We need a basic income: a guaranteed cash payment to all adult citizens sufficient to support a minimal lifestyle.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “OK, basic income: possibly a good idea. But what does this have to do with veganism?” Continue reading

Drawdown

Book cover for “Drawdown”

Several years ago, I took a look at the book Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken. It has now been turned into a web site, “Project Drawdown,” which several people have recently mentioned to me. It’s a list of proposed solutions to global warming. It is not so much a plan to deal with global warming, but rather strategies that could be integrated into a plan. There are lots of good ideas, including not only the standard ones such as renewable energy, but also including plant-rich diets, forest restoration, bicycle infrastructure, and others.

Approaching global warming in this way looks like an attempt to retrofit sustainability onto our existing system. Is this going to work? Continue reading

Veganism as a response to limits to growth

A makeshift memorial near the bus stop where the incident occurred, photographed on May 27. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Lorie Shaull at https://flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/49943807607.

Limits to growth are now here. Our economy used to work just fine but hasn’t been working so well for the past few decades. With limits to growth, it is now not going to work at all.

One failure is our way of dealing with social inequality. The only way that we have tried to deal with social inequality is through economic growth. We’ve assumed for some time that capitalistic expansion of the economy will solve problems of inequality. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” that is, a bigger economy will be bigger for everyone. Continue reading