by Roy Morrison
Ecological economic growth is something new under the sun. It’s key to stopping and reversing climate change and building an ecological civilization based on the pursuit of social and ecological justice. We have the tools to respond effectively to climate change, humanity’s gravest challenge, while building a prosperous and sustainable ecological civilization that will long endure.
If the term ecological economic growth sounds like an oxymoron, just consider the benefits of investing trillions in the total replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy resources. Zero fuel costs. Global pollution and ecological damage would plunge. Another coal or natural gas plant never built. Renewable energy swiftly become a leading sector in the global economy. Why not?
Ecological economic growth is the accessible path for our economic and political systems to respond quickly to the ecological threats confronting us. It means using the power of global production and investment to make economic growth mean ecological improvement.
Ecological economic growth will arise, not by magic, but by establishing market rules that make the market price system send clear profit signals for sustainability supported by the laws, regulations, monetary, fiscal and investment policy to guide ecological markets in attaining ecologically sustainable and transformative ends. These ends include the pursuit of social and ecological justice as inescapable concomitant of a prosperous, just, and peaceful ecological future.
Ecological economic growth, at bottom, expresses a collective refusal to continue along the path of global ecological self-destruction. Global ecological economic growth is the kind of idea, a radical reform, that is not a matter of replacing markets, or abolishing capitalism, or jettisoning democracy.
Ecological transformation will reflect a great global rising from below. Organizing and implementing local plans for sustainability are models and guides for the global. Local action and organizing will cohere into a decentralized and diverse global movement, of many millions in the streets, that will define the diverse politics and policies for ecological economic growth.
It is crucial to understand that action on the local level has planetary importance. We feel impotent to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions from a current 50 billion (gigatons) tons a year to a sustainable 21 gigatons more or less keeping carbon dioxide levels in balance. But it is very much in our power to make and implement plans to take steps overtime to cut our carbon emissions to a sustainable 3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per person per year, or 21 gigatons globally for a population of 7 billion. Global ecological economic growth is all about making these local reductions become the basis for a sustainable global total.
This is globalization led from below, similar in scope to the way the industrial revolution arose from the development of new energy and production technologies and the development of a welter of market rules, laws, regulations monetary and fiscal policies that supported the development, growth and spread of industrial capitalism. A transformation based on the pursuit of global ecological economic growth is our best chance, in steps and stages, to preserve civilization and the quality of the ecosphere upon which it depends.
Ecological economic growth means the concept of value is not reduced to cash exchange value and instead value includes consequential use value and moral value. Moral value means some things are not priced, but forbidden, like slavery or activities leading to mass extinction. All corporations will, in effect, become B corporations for defined public benefit in pursuit of ecological ends in a market system, part of the solution. Business and pollution as usual means ecological collapse and the great dying.
Given our recent experience, a saving ecological turn will not be provided by agreements in Paris, or proclamations from the President. Instead, there will be a movement supporting a contagious global ecological transformation that becomes irresistible in its pursuit of social and ecological justice with the necessary desperate intensity to stop and reverse climate change.
Global ecological economic growth means much more income and much less pollution, depletion,and ecological damage. It means many more jobs in sustainable local communities. It means economic growth within the context of justice and fairness. It means the embrace of sustainability entrepreneurship and balancing the right to use the global commons with a responsibility to preserve, protect and defend the global commons form ecological damage. It means economic growth meaning by practice and by law ecological improvement and the revitalization the ecosphere.
Global ecological economic growth is predicated on the understanding that, we have to do more than implementing reasonable, necessary, and largely commendable series of steps outlined in the recent Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low -Carbon Energy. These all could be part of the policies of the Green New Deal advanced by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and allies. These policies could be, like the Paris Climate Accords, if really implemented, part of the energy tools for keeping climate change below 2 degree celsius. No small thing. It can be done and done in a fashion not to overly inconvenience too many too much and not change the basic structures of business as usual. Perhaps this will be what emerges post Trump, or even sooner, and we will be all the better for it. Facing climate catastrophe, the G-20 rose as one woman and behind Angela Merkel and aggressively implemented carbon reduction policies, and, after a few decades of dynamic effort, all was well.
I suggest four things. First, that the market and political failures that have placed us on the road to ecological catastrophe will almost certainly not be remedied by good government policy books alone. Second, the scope of the short and long term ecological threat extends beyond energy into all sectors such as agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, industrial production. Third, we must get off the tracks we are driving along to escape the speeding climate change train headed for us. Fourth, we must transform business and pollution as usual to become part of an ecological civilization that will long endure.
Roy Morrison’s next book is Ecological Economic Growth: A Guide to Stopping Climate Change &
Building an Ecological Civilization forthcoming in 2019.
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions
TRENDS IN GLOBAL CO2 AND TOTAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS 2017 Report J.G.J. Olivier, K.M. Schure and J.A.H.W. Peters December 2017 PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Designing Climate Solutions
Designing Climate Solutions – Island Press by HalHarvey with Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman, Nov. 2018 https://islandpress.org/books/designing-climate-solutions
Green New Deal