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Managing without Growth, Second Edition

Slower by Design, not Disaster

Peter A. Victor

Ten years after the publication of the first edition of this influential book, the evidence is even stronger that human economies are overwhelming the regenerative capacity of the planet. This book explains why long-term economic growth is infeasible, and why, especially in advanced economies, it is also undesirable. Simulations based on real data show that managing without growth is a better alternative
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Peter A. Victor

The first edition of this book was inspired by an invitation in 2001 from Gideon Rosenbluth to revisit questions about economic growth that we had discussed in the 1960s when he was my supervisor at the University of British Columbia. Gideon passed away in 2011, time enough to see the renewed interest in alternatives to the growth paradigm challenge the overarching priority of economic growth in academia and governments around the world.

In writing this second edition I am indebted to many people. First and foremost, I have benefited greatly from my ongoing research with Tim Jackson. Tim’s multiple talents for modeling, analysis, writing, oratory, and his command of stock-flow consistent macroeconomics are impressive and have helped raise my own standards. Tim co-authored Chapter 11, much of which reflects the fruits of our collaboration since we met in 2008. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support we have received at various times to support our work from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Metcalf Foundation, the Ivey Foundation, and the Santa-Barbara Family Foundation.

For the past few years I have enjoyed the company of several of my former and current students at meetings of what has come to be known as the Gothic Group: Ed Crummey, Andreas Link, David Mallery, Eric Miller, Alvi Palazuelos and Martin Sers. The group gave me very useful feedback on several of the early chapters and our various discussions have informed my thinking on many key issues. I owe a special thanks to Martin Sers with whom I worked on the energy–emissions trap which is described in Chapter 5.

Sophie Sanniti is another of my former students who played a significant role in the production of this book. Working as my research assistant for several months, Sophie tracked down numerous references, checked others, and helped format the text, wrestling Word, which has a mind of its own, to the ground.

Environmental scientist and engineer Ed Hanna is one of my oldest friends. Many of the issues covered in the book reflect our discussions and consulting projects that began in the late 1970s. Ed was especially helpful in distinguishing between ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ green investments, a distinction that has implications for simulating the impact of green investment on economic growth as reported in Chapter 11.

Brett Dolter’s excellent dissertation on Greening the Saskatchewan Grid inspired me to build a sub-model of the electricity sector which Brett kindly reviewed. The sub-model is used to simulate the environmental and economic impacts of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Mark Onyr Kailer assisted with the econometric estimations that are incorporated in the macroeconomic simulation model that is described in Chapter 11 and I am grateful to him.

I made considerable use of Cansim, the easily accessible database of Statistics Canada. Whenever I needed further explanation I always received timely and helpful responses from the very professional staff employed by Canada’s national statistical agency. I also made good use of the data bases maintained by the OECD and the World Bank and want to acknowledge all those who work in these organizations behind the scenes for bringing consistency to the data obtained from so many different countries.

I am grateful to Fridolin Kraussman for providing me with the most recent estimates of global materials use which are included in Chapter 5 and to Tom Weidmann for pointing me to the OECD data on the materials footprint. Several sources, identified in the text, granted me permission to reproduce figures for which they own the copyright and I thank them for that.

As professors, if we are lucky, our students learn as much from us as we do from them. In my case, in the winter term of 2017 I was fortunate to teach a course on ecological economics to 27 graduate students from York University, McGill University and the University of Vermont. The course was part of a collaborative program, Economics for the Anthropocene, offered by these three universities. One component of the course was student-led discussions of drafts of the first ten chapters of Managing Without Growth. The students wrote detailed reports on the drafts. Although I cannot claim to have fixed all the shortcomings noted by the students, I considered them all and the book is all the better for it.

After the publication of the first edition of Managing without Growth I exchanged ideas and material with numerous travellers along the same path, some old friends but mostly new ones, many of whom are quoted and cited in this second edition. I want to acknowledge and thank: Gar Alperovitz, Robert Ayres, Dennis Bardeen, Ross Beaty, Yannick Beaudoin, Mathias Binswanger, Alex Bowen, Francois Briens, Halina Brown, Peter Brown, Ingrid Bryan, Terry Burrell, Louison Cahen-Fourot, Emanuele Campiglio, Isabelle Cassiers, Ian Christie, Maurie Cohen, Mick Common, Mateo Cordier, Bob Costanza, Brian Czech, Simone D’Alessandro, Simon Dalby, Herman Daly, Uchita de Zoyza, Federico Demaria, Bo Diczfalusy, Arnaud Diemer, Rob Dietz, Kristoffer Ditmer, Peter Doran, Angela Druckman, Ben Dyson, Paul Ekins, Ernie Epp, Jon Ericson, George Fallis, Josh Farley, Lorenzo Fioramonti, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Tony Friend, John Fullerton, Jim Fyles, Christopher Gan, Dave Gardner, Geoff Garver, Neva Goodwin, Maja Gopel, John Gowdy, John Grant, Tom Green, Velma Grovers, Helmut Haberl, Nate Hagens, Alan Hallsworth, Colin Harbury, Jonathan Harris, Anders Hayden, Rob Hoffman, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Paul Jenkins, Bruce Jennings, Gareth Wyn Jones, Giorgios Kallis, Miriam Kennet, John King, Naomi Klein, Marcus Koch, Karen Kraft Sloan, Lisi Krall, Fridolin Kraussman, Ida Kubiszewski, Tom Kruse, Atif Kubursi, Aurore Lalucq, Serge Latouche, Phillip Lawn, Tim Lloyd, Brude Lourie, Donnie Maclurcan, Mikael Malmeus, Joan Martinez-Alier, Graeme Maxton, Elizabeth May, Angus McAllister, James Meadowcroft, Euan Mearns, Graciela Metternicht, David Miller, Frank Muller, Robert Nadeau, Sonja Novkovic, Doug Nutall, Dan O’Neill, Raj Patel, Derek Paul, Richard Pereira, Ellie Perkins, Elke Pirmaier, Jonathan Porritt, Louis Pradanos, Steve Pressman, Paul Pubelis, Stephen Purdey, Stephen Quilley, Jorgen Randers, Paul Raskin, Kate Raworth, Rupert Read, William Rees, Armon Rezia, Oliver Richters, Justin Ritchie, Johan Rockström, Dan Rosen, Frank Rotering, Jeff Rubin, Steve Running, Matthias Ruth, Toby Sanger, Jack Santa-Barbara, Juliet Schor, Charles Sing, Vaclav Smil, Dick Smith, Robert Smith, Steve Sorrell, Jules Speck, Gus Speth, Sigrid Stagl, Noël Sturgeon, David Suzuki, Asa Svenfelt, Vanessa Timmer, Peter Timmerman, Ralph Torrie, Graham Turner, Marco Ulvila, Jeroen Van den Burgh, Philip Vergraft, Mathis Wackernagel, Tom Walker, Stewart Wallis, Hayden Washington, Tom Webb, Ernst von Weizsäcker, David Welch, David Wheeler, Tommy Wiedmann, Anders Wijkman, Bob Willard, Susan Witt and Doug Worts. Apologies to anyone I failed to mention.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of Edward Elgar Publishing. In particular to Alan Sturmer, Executive Editor, who encouraged me to write this second edition and then proved extremely patient when it took a lot longer than either of us expected. I also thank Erin McVicar and Rebecca Stowell for their hard work in checking the manuscript and preparing it for production.

I completed the manuscript a short time after retiring from the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. My association with FES goes back to 1975 when I began teaching a course on economics and the environment as a part-time faculty member. In 1996, I joined this truly interdisciplinary faculty full-time. I thank everyone there, past and present, who has contributed to the generous intellectual space without which an inquiry into managing without growth would not have been possible.

Finally, there is the enormous debt that I owe my wife Maria Paez Victor for supporting my endeavors, leaving me in peace for long hours in my study, checking references while in hospital recovering from a broken ankle, encouraging me to speak out, and reading the entire text.

To all I give a big vote of thanks. Your help and inspiration has kept me going and has made for a better book. You are welcome to share in any compliments that it may receive, but the responsibility for any errors that may remain is entirely mine.