Renewable energy cannot sustain a consumer society?

 The comment from the article below ” A sustainable and just society cannot be a consumer society, it cannot be driven by market forces, it must have relatively little international trade and no economic growth”, shows how confused we are about ‘sustainability’ and our view  of it as a possible destination, rather than a journey of continual improvement.

Any society we can concieve will be a ‘consumer society’ and ‘market driven’ but will be primarily driven by the ‘First Law of Sustainability’, where any growth can only be obtained by reducing the ‘resource intensity’ of products and services.



Renewable energy cannot sustain a consumer society

By Ted Trainer, Synthesis/Regeneration

Filed under > Analysis

(WW4 Report) — An excerpt from the introduction to the book Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society (Springer 2007)

……………………at all. It must be made up mostly of small local economies, and its driving values cannot be competition and acquisitiveness. Whether or not we are likely to achieve such a transition is not crucial here (and I am quite pessimistic about achieving it). The point is that when our “limits to growth” situation is understood, a sustainable and just society cannot be conceived in any other terms. Discussion of these themes is of the utmost importance, but few if any green agencies ever even mention them.

The “tech-fix optimists” who are to be found in plague proportions in the renewable energy field are open to the same criticism. If the position underlying this book is valid, then despite the indisputably desirable technologies all these people are developing, they are working for the devil. If it is the case that a sustainable and just world cannot be achieved without transition from consumer society to a Simpler Way of some kind, then this transition is being thwarted by those who reinforce the faith that technical advances will eliminate any need to even think about such a transition.

The Simpler Way could easily have an extremely low per capita rate of energy consumption, and footprint, based on local resources—but only if we undertake vast and radical change in economic, political, geographical and cultural systems.

Complete article at


One comment

  1. We’re already overshooting the earth’s capacity by a third, so it should be common sense that a sustainable consumer society is impossible.

    Unfortunately that’s a politically suicidal message – no government wants to tell people they shouldn’t drive, fly on holiday, or buy new gadgets from China.

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