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The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality Paperback – August 9, 2011
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Why have mainstream economists ignored environmental limits for so long? If Heinberg is right, they will have much explaining to do." -- LESTER BROWN, Founder Earth Policy Institute --Lester Brown - Earth Policy Institute
Heinberg shows how peak oil, peak water, peak food, etc. lead not only to the end of growth, but to the beginning of a new era of progress without growth. --Herman E. Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
By the time you finish this, you will have 2 conclusions: This is the end of economic growth and it is our problem, not our childrens'. It's time to get ready. This book is the place to start. --Paul Gilding - Former head of Greenpeace International
Richard has rung the bell on the limits to growth. Our shift from quantity of consumption to quality of life is the great challenge of our generation. Frightening...but ultimately freeing. --John Fullerton - President and Founder, Capital Institute
Nobody should be elected to federal office who has not read Richard Heinberg's The End of Growth. - William Catton, author of Overshoot.
Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. The End of Growth proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Richard Heinberg's latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, explaining how and why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes. Written in an engaging, highly readable style, it shows why growth is being blocked by three factors:
- Resource depletion,
- Environmental impacts, and
- Crushing levels of debt.
These converging limits will force us to re-evaluate cherished economic theories and to reinvent money and commerce.
The End of Growth describes what policy makers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth'sbudget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.
From the Back Cover
As energy and food prices escalate and debt levels explode, paths that formerly led to economic prosperty now lead to disaster. This book proposes a startling diagnosis: the global economy has reached a fundamental turning point--the end of growth. The Great Recession will not end in "recovery." Still, we can thrive in coming years if we abandon the futile pursuit of growth in consumption and aim instead for improvements in quality of life.
Richard Heinberg's latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, examining why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes. Written in an engaging style, it shows why growth can't continue in the face of resource depletion, environmental devastation, and mountains of debt.
The End of Growth re-evaluates cherished economic theories and describes what policymakers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth's budget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than pursuing the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.
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Top Customer Reviews
Richard Heinberg's book fits into this tradition, with an implicit argument that population growth may have contributes to the so-called Great Recession of 2008.
Heinberg is pessimistic about mankind coming to grips with population growth and states that the "end of growth" will most likely not be thoughtfully planned out, but proceed by a series of crises, of which the Great Recession may be an example.
Fair enough. Still, I would have liked a more complete and detailed explanation of why the world will necessarily run out of energy resources, since this seems to be the crux of Heinberg's argument. Indeed, I believe this should be a key question of contemporary economics: Will the world find alternatives to oil in time to keep the growing population from running out of energy? Call this the peak oil question, if you want.
For example, imagine for a moment that "cold fusion" were to become a reality. A very cheap energy source like this would presumably mean that the energy restraint on growing population would be gone. If not cold fusion, there might be other technological breakthroughs on the horizon. For example, can genetic engineering provide algae which provide jet fuel that competes on a cost basis with oil? It is conceivable that a technological advance like this could help avoid the more pessimistic population growth scenarios.
At the other extreme one can imagine that there are no such advances, but real impediments to getting "renewable" energy sources like solar energy up to the point where they replace oil. And the supplies of oil are indeed finite. In this scenario one imagines a dimming of civilization as it runs out of energy.
CPI figures show that the price of gasoline tripled during the decade 2000-10, supporting the argument that resource limitations contributed to the Great Recession. Is this the pattern for the future? Will energy prices triple again in the next decade, then again? One can imagine an America of 2030 in which the wealthy drive Teslas, while the poor have simply stopped travelling. Is this America's future? I would have liked this book to devote more time to questions of this nature.
Tangentially at least, the book touches on one of the key contemporary arguments between economists. In simple terms, Keynesians argue that governments (like that of the US) should ignore deficits and spend to drive down unemployment, while austerians claim that at some point such spending will lead to default or inflation. Keynesians tend to be Democrats while Austerians tend to be Republican, while governments tend to use a mix of the two viewpoints in setting policy.
Heinberg seems to side with the austerians, but his arguments are weak, and many of his proposed solutions seem naive. He missed an opportunity to explain that resource limitations may explain why both viewpoints---Keynes versus austerity---lead to the same Malthusian end state with the world running out of resources.
Indeed, population growth can overwhelm any attempt at Keynesian spending, leading ultimately to social welfare systems that simply don't work. This is illustrated by Mumbai slums as described in Katherine Boo's book, "Behind the beautiful forevers." India tries to provide its poor with health care and police services, but under the strain of population growth these services fall apart, and the poor resort to bribing doctors to actually provide care within the hospitals or refrain from beating prisoners accused of crimes. The first stages of similar decay may be occurring in the US, which has a rate of incarceration of its poor which is six times as high as either China or Canada, its poor often unable to afford to treat chronic diseases.
Such problems might be attributed to population growth in the US of 36% in the period 1980-2010 according to census figures, driven by a never-ending stream of illegal immigrants, whose children are automatically US citizens, immigrants who compete with the poor for low-wage jobs and scarce resources. Democratic economists seem to avoid the obvious conclusion---that an influx of unskilled workers drives persistent unemployment among the poor, helping to explain why the high unemployment of the Great Recession has not completely lifted.
A recognition of the implications of population growth might suggest policy responses that do not necessarily accord with the conventional wisdom of either political party, free access to birth control and legalization of abortion, but also an end to illegal immigration so that the US can save its own poor.
Heinberg's book fails to grapple with these difficult issues. Americans have avoided Cassandra's message for far too long, and the easy solutions are no longer tenable. Unfortunately, confronted with stark reality, many will choose to continue to kick the can down the road again. Americans may never fully understand what has destroyed their economy.
I also believe most Americans love profit, believe in the manifestly destiny and dismiss timing to such a degree it will become their Achilles heel. I look at politicans on both sides of the fence and I shutter! Also, someone mentioned that because the wall street journal didn't review ithe book it didn't hold merit? What? Wow? I wonder why they didn't. If they did it would put their whole reason for existing into peril. Recycle and sustainability, hum....not happening enough right now to make a difference. Sorry but I see most people with an inability to think critically and beyond their timing in history, so I am concerned. Also I didn't see the book as doomsday, (I think that is typical politics---don't like what is being said so let's use a demonic word to discredit it). I do believe we need to constantly review all that we hold so profound. It's good humans die, otherwise new ideas would almost never come into being. People don't like change, especially those who are benefiting the most.
In the end we all have to go our own way. Am I totally sure Richard is right? Of course not, but much of what he says needs serious consideration.
For me I will incorporate some of what Richard says in this book into how I live. There is something seriously wrong out there and it's more than God being mad at us or tax cuts for the rich will solve everything or that trickle down and inventions will save the day.
Resources ARE limited and 100 to 1 energy exchange is going to be hard to replace. Also as a person from Seattle I have seen the price of salmon raise over 350% in the last 10 years while I see less and less salmon each year go through the ladder at the canal in Fremont. Farmed salmon anyone?
So I wil save more, stay away from debt, live within my means, not believe a thing from any politician and then see how it all shakes out over the next 15 Years.
Five years after the crash of 2008, the global economy is still struggling in fits and starts. While a recovery of sorts has been underway in the US and UK, it has been mostly jobless. Unemployment among young adults worldwide has risen by a quarter since 2008. Climate change is producing more extreme weather: typhoon Haiyan- perhaps the strongest typhoon ever- has devastated parts of the Philippines. Mass anti-government unrest in the Ukraine and Thailand is symptomatic of a faltering economic environment.
On the other side of the coin, dramatic developments: the US is poised to become energy independent and the worlds largest oil producer- a dramatic and unforeseen development.
This book acts as an accessible introduction to economics for those of us lacking any formal education on the subject. It also generates a greater awareness and interest in the global economy. I watch financial TV shows now that I never did before.
The only disappointment I have is that Heinberg spends a long time describing how the economy works- which reads like a textbook. Instead I had hoped for greater considerations of how and why our economy is linked to environmental and ecological issues of sustainability.