The ‘One Planet Equation’ as an economic driver

The interesting article below in the ‘Oil Drum’ considers the possibility of a ‘steady state’ economy without growth and Dr Albert Bartlett in his essay, Arithmetic, Population and Energy states the following

What’s the first law of sustainability? You’ve heard thousands of people talking endlessly about sustainability; did they ever tell you the first law? Here it is, population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained. That’s simple arithmetic. (A version I abridged can be downloaded here Arithmetic, Population and Energy- abridged)

As a corollary of the ‘One Planet Equation’, I reform this as ‘in a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which they can be dematerialized’. In the limit of course Dr Bartlett is correct.

We have a fundamental problem thinking of a steady state economy, which is that an economy is a dynamic system. Even physical systems are difficult to maintain in a steady state and when humans are introduced into the control loop they become almost impossible. George Soros’s Theory of Reflexivity recognises this.

The question then arises, how do we drive the economy in a resource constrained world, and we do this by using the ‘One Planet Equation’ as the driver it is. The Earth will balance this for us if we choose to ignore it.

We have to work to continually reduce the resource intensity, 1/P*C, and the societies and organisations that achieve this will be the ones that inherit the future. The remaining questions are, are we prepared to accept the mission and is it already too late?


Right Sizing the Economy: Can Herman Daly’s Prescription for a Steady State Economy Accomplish this Task?

A guest post from RogerK, Posted by Nate Hagens on June 13, 2009

TOD recently published the text of a speechdelivered by economist Herman Daly at the United States Society for Ecological Economics bi-annual conference (at American University near Washington DC). About half of this speech was dedicated to making the case for limits to economic growth……………….

Complete article at


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