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The End of Perpetual Growth Economics

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009

Conventional economics, based on the assumption of perpetual growth, won't help us understand how to save the planet. What will? Here's what Gus Speth, John Ehrenfeld and Peter G. Brown are saying.

Sponsors: Nature Network, the CUNY Program in Earth & Environmental Sciences and HORIZON International

John Ehrenfeld, author of Sustainability by Design, Yale University Press, 2008
Executive Director, International .Society for Industrial Ecology, and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Senior Research Scholar; Retired from MIT Center for Technology, Policy & Industrial Development.

Peter G. Brown et al, authors of Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2009 Professor, McGill University School of Environment

James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World, asserts we are winning battles and losing the war. The state of global nature is far worse than we’re telling the public, and it’s time we told the whole truth. Climate change is an imminent threat, but so is the state of the oceans, soil, fresh water, toxics in air and water and biodiversity. Reducing global consumption is essential—particularly in America --and that is likely to leave Americans happier.

Ehrenfeld and Brown carry this argument further. Economics must be based on the limits to the sources of life provided by nature, fundamentally the sun. The developed world is dangerously drawing down the planet’s life sources, threatening other species and depriving a large portion of humans of their essential needs. Economists assume that perpetual growth is essential. That must change. Continued growth in consumption is impossible.

That change in the thinking of the public and economists is not happening.

Ehrenfeld emphasizes that complexity defies models and the analysis of a single discipline, calling for multi-discipline analysis and synthesis followed by broad public participation in ecology/economy decisions—always working at the margins with constant monitoring. Non-scientists should insert their values having been told the assumptions of scientists. He offers examples of how to keep public attention on reducing consumption, living within nature’s means.

Brown argues that the economic order cannot offer satisfactory answers to five simple questions about the economy: What is it for? How does it work? How big should it be? What is fair? and, How should it be governed? In answering these questions he lays the foundation for a different economic order respectful of the earth and the whole commonwealth of life with which we share heritage and destiny. He argues that it is now necessary to take direct actions if we are to turn away from the present disastrous course.

Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 11 am - 1 pm

Location: CUNY Graduate School , Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street

Registration: Bill Shore 914-922-1542 or

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