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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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Chapter 5: Limits to growth – sources

Peter A. Victor


Economies are embedded in the biosphere. This was well understood by the founders of economics, especially Thomas Malthus, but has become neglected in mainstream economics, which presents the economic system as disconnected from the biosphere. Hence it is thought to be able to grow forever. Economic growth can be limited because of inadequate supplies of materials and energy, especially as the quantities required to sustain growth continue to increase. Advanced economies lack domestic supplies of some materials considered critical for the new technologies. Energy presents a special problem. Unlike materials, it cannot be recycled. Oil shortages remain a threat despite advances in extraction technologies. Greenhouse gases released from fossil fuel combustion are causing climate change and so economies must transition to renewable sources of energy. The difficulty of finding a transition path that generates sufficient net energy to support economic growth while reducing greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently fast is referred to as the ‘energy–emissions trap’.

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