Achieving a sustainable world economy would be nothing less than a great step in human evolution, comparable with the mastery of fire or the development of settled agriculture as opposed to hunting and gathering. It concerns the whole world and needs to be tackled on a world, not just a national, basis. This does not mean that people within nations can do nothing; it means that what they do, they do not for Australia, or for America, but for the world in their own countries, not as Australians or Americans but as world citizens.
Also, the evolutionary step is a vast change from our present world setup.
Faced with this enormous gap between here and there, it is difficult for people to get involved, develop a coherent plan, or keep going. It is not just a matter, as some lesser issues may be, of boiling around for a few years, changing a government by votes or violence, and having the appropriate measures legislated and implemented in a generation or so.
The method must be evolution, not revolution. Nations and individuals are constantly confronted by myriad choices, big and small, in all areas. To choose one option is consistent with moving towards a stable and ecologically sound relationship between humanity and the world; choosing the other pushes against it. By constantly making the choices in the appropriate direction, the human world can evolve steadily in the right way. There will be a lot of damage and loss en route, due not to the choices that are being made, but to the fact that the evolutionary process that they comprise is too slow to prevent bad effects from destructive interaction with our environment. But there’s no other way. By this means, organisations and governments can have something to do, and comprehend, and care about, all the time.
Examples follow of events that can develop in two directions, one of which contributes to progress towards a sustainable world economy, while the other retards such progress.
Some of the examples may puzzle or disconcert the reader, but the rest of this document is supposed to explain the thinking behind them.
A government should stay in rather than leave, or join rather than stay out of, a supranational body such as the European Union.
Tariff barriers should be lowered rather than raised, or removed rather than erected. This helps transfer throughput (economic activity, consumption and so on; the term is explained more fully later) from more to less perfluent nations.
The words perfluent and perfluence are preferable to affluent and affluence because they describe wealth flowing through rather than flowing to. This will be discussed later.
The creation of cartels and subsequent increases in the price of resources such as oil is a helpful event because it slows the depletion rate of resources and again helps transfer throughput from higher to lower perfluence areas.
People should decide to walk, use a push-bike or take public transport instead of using their car, even a little more often, or merely get a smaller car. Larger changes are more useful, but small changes also contribute if they are the best a person can manage.
A strike called in any industry is useful because it delays throughput through that industry and buys time for the whole system to change to a sustainable one. Every bit of time bought is useful because the time needed is long. The loss of pay by workers on strike also retards throughput.
If an electorate chooses a government whose policies are incompetent and result in a lower throughout rate, what we currently call gross national “product”, this is usually regarded as a bad thing, but it is good for moving towards the sustainable economy because it slows resource depletion, buys time, and makes the inept government’s country more dependent on other parts of the human family.
Industries that feed on endangered species, such as whaling and seal-hunting, should be limited or closed. They will limit or close themselves anyway through their continued activity, but then the endangered species would no longer exist at the end. So the commonsense measure is to limit the industries while the species on which they depend can still recover.
If two or more nations unite even in a small way, this is useful. Small steps towards unity, achieving progress without making anyone feel threatened, include eliminating passports and work permits between countries; uniting customs and excise; using a common currency as legal tender in any of the countries; putting separate armed forces under a unified supranational command; adopting a single head of state for all countries involved; merging into supranational bodies government departments administering areas that naturally transcend national borders, such as environment the seas and inland waters, air pollution, long-distance transport; co-operating on projects too big for one country to handle effectively, such as fusion or solar energy or space exploration.
Similarities of language and political systems would ease the merging of separate nations. Possible mergers might be Argentina with Chile, Germany and Austria, Australia and New Zealand, The United States of America and Canada, Central American countries. The recent tendency for fragmentation of countries into smaller autonomous units based on religion or race or language runs against the requirement of a sustainable world economy, which is for world political unity prevailing in harmony with ethnic diversity. The pressure for political fragmentation is a response to, but not a cure for, the pressures of increasing human population against limited and depeleting world resources.
Migration of people from heavily populated to less populated parts of the world is a helpful trend. It is resisted more or less fiercely, but is likely to continue and must be accommodated to. Each small step in the process is helpful; for example, one Asian helped to arrive and settle in Australia is a contribution.
The issue of nuclear arms control is difficult. The economic activity diverted into immobile stores of potential mass death should be turned to more life-loving uses. But in practice, under present conditions the released economic activity would accelerate the resource depletion that is threatening the human economy and much other life. Also, a complete absence of nuclear weapons would remove what has been for sixty years a decisive obstacle to repeated global wars on a scale much greater than the first two. These wars, with all the power of modern technology except nuclear fusion, could well be just as destructive to life and to the earth’s life-supporting capacity as the dreaded all-out nuclear holocaust, though taking longer about it and leaving no radioactive by-products. Vietnam was a microcosm of what we might expect.
It would be better if total general nuclear disarmament as such, were not campaigned for directly, but, rather, made to come about by redirecting all the campaigners’ caring and energy into working away at the other issues and thereby gradually creating a world where nuclear weapons would “wither on the vine” as redundant, irrelevant relics of a less advanced humanity. The real peril is not the nuclear weapons as such, but conflicts and instabilities that provoke their construction and would ignite endless wars in their absence.
Saving a single swamp from becoming a rubbish tip or car-park, or a single tree from being felled, or a few kilometres of road from being laid through an ecologically sensitive or aesthetically pleasing area, or just buying and throwing out less “rubbish” are local, manageable issues which all contribute.
So, the program of activity for ordinary people is to latch onto any issue in which they feel interested or expert and do what they can to influence the resolution of an issue in the appropriate direction. That accomplished, another issue can be tackled. The issue can be one having no obvious connection with what the public thinks of as being ecological or environmental, but its resolution in the appropriate direction will contribute to the achievement of an ecologically stable world and a sustainable human economy.
Posts in this Series
- Review of 1988 edition of Economics for a Round Earth
- Ends and Means
- Evolution Not Revolution
- Notes on Evolution Not Revolution
- Concepts and Terms – What is ‘wealth’?
- The Throughput Chain
- The Derivatives of Wealth
- Global Inequalities in Wealth
- Economic Growth Redefined
- Misconceptions in Practice
- Borrowing to Invest to Get Rich
- Environment versus Economic Progress
- Digression: Pollution Red Herrings
- Digression: Depletion and Inflation
- Value Inflation – the Trigger, not the Bullet
- Living Standard and Quality of Life
- Digression: Resource Consumption, Jobs, and Hands Off
- When the Boom comes
- The Effect of People’s Expectations
- Hard Work – Virtue or Vice?
- Who needs the Snail Darter?
- More Dollars for Conservation?
- Non-renewable Resources – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Digression: Fast Breeder Nuclear Fission Reactors
- Minerals in National Parks – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Population and Wealth
- Left, Right and The Environment
- Digression: “So Long As We Profit, Costs Elsewhere Aren’t Our Problem”?
- Limits to Growth?
- Solar Energy – a Special Case
- The Solar-Powered Car
- Money Supply, Throughput and Inflation
- Real and Money Wages: Living Standards
- Digression: Caution about “Increases” and “Decreases”
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages: the Great Depression
- Deficit Financing
- The Optimum Proportionate Flow Condition
- Digression: Thrift versus Spendthrift
- Digression: the Private Motor Car – a Basic Necessity?
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages – the Stagflation of the 1970’s and 80’s
- Excessive Wages Can Cost Jobs
- Fight Unemployment or Inflation First?
- Digression: Work and Jobs
- Other “Job Creation” Schemes
- Visual and Noise Pollution
- Digression: Renewal and Recycling of Resources; Wages and Jobs
- Ratio Distortion and Consumption
- Aggregate Demand – Components and Internal Ratio
- The Slave Economy
- Employment and the Steady State
- Consumer-Led Recovery
- Interest Rates and Ratio Distortion
- Demographic Trends and Living Standards
- Digression: Bad Economics Good for Conservation?
- Coping with Aging Populations
- Stabilising the Human Population
- Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?
- Digression: Other Comments on Statements in UN Report
- Discussion of Costs Resumed
- Budget Balancing Methods – Cost or Gain?
- Digression: Government Expenditure – Government Employees
- Expenditure on Weapons