Towards a New Sustainable Economy - Robert Costanza

BigGav recently highlighted a talk by Robert Costanza given in New Zealand (scroll down). Below the fold is the article "Towards a New Sustainable Economy" by Professor Costanza (who happens to be my phd co-advisor). I agree with much of it - science is rapidly answering the questions of 'who we are' and 'what we have' - the crux is how to get from here, to what comes next. I must admit I'm very tired of the talking heads on television discussing everything about our financial crisis with no acknowledgement that ALL global currencies for past generation are functioning as fiat markers for real capital. I would fall on the floor if someone like Bob Costanza or Herman Daly was on CNN or CNBC. But the advertisers might not like it....

Toward a New Sustainable Economy

Robert Costanza [University of Vermont, USA]

The current financial meltdown is the result of under-regulated markets built on an ideology of free market capitalism and unlimited economic growth. The fundamental problem is that the underlying assumptions of this ideology are not consistent with what we now know about the real state of the world. The financial world is, in essence, a set of markers for goods, services, and risks in the real world and when those markers are allowed to deviate too far from reality, “adjustments” must ultimately follow and crisis and panic can ensue. To solve this and future financial crisis requires that we reconnect the markers with reality. What are our real assets and how valuable are they? To do this requires both a new vision of what the economy is and what it is for, proper and comprehensive accounting of real assets, and new institutions that use the market in its proper role of servant rather than master.

The mainstream vision of the economy is based on a number of assumptions that were created during a period when the world was still relatively empty of humans and their built infrastructure. In this “empty world” context, built capital was the limiting factor, while natural capital and social capital were abundant. It made sense, in that context, not to worry too much about environmental and social “externalities” since they could be assumed to be relatively small and ultimately solvable. It made sense to focus on the growth of the market economy, as measured by GDP, as a primary means to improve human welfare. It made sense, in that context, to think of the economy as only marketed goods and services and to think of the goal as increasing the amount of these goods and services produced and consumed.

But the world has changed dramatically. We now live in a world relatively full of humans and their built capital infrastructure. In this new context, we have to first remember that the goal of the economy is to sustainably improve human well-being and quality of life. We have to remember that material consumption and GDP are merely means to that end, not ends in themselves. We have to recognize, as both ancient wisdom and new psychological research tell us, that material consumption beyond real need can actually reduce well-being. We have to better understand what really does contribute to sustainable human well-being, and recognize the substantial contributions of natural and social capital, which are now the limiting factors in many countries. We have to be able to distinguish between real poverty in terms of low quality of life, and merely low monetary income. Ultimately we have to create a new model of the economy and development that acknowledges this new full world context and vision.

This new model of development would be based clearly on the goal of sustainable human well-being. It would use measures of progress that clearly acknowledge this goal. It would acknowledge the importance of ecological sustainability, social fairness, and real economic efficiency. Ecological sustainability implies recognizing that natural and social capital are not infinitely substitutable for built and human capital, and that real biophysical limits exist to the expansion of the market economy.

Social fairness implies recognizing that the distribution of wealth is an important determinant of social capital and quality of life. The conventional model has bought into the assumption that the best way to improve welfare is through growth in marketed consumption as measured by GDP. This focus on growth has not improved overall societal welfare and explicit attention to distribution issues is sorely needed. As Robert Frank has argued in his latest book: Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, economic growth beyond a certain point sets up a “positional arms race” that changes the consumption context and forces everyone to consume too much of positional goods (like houses and cars) at the expense of non-marketed, non-positional goods and services from natural and social capital. For example, this drive to consume more positional goods leads people to reach beyond their means to purchase ever larger and more expensive houses, fueling the housing bubble. It also fuels increasing inequality of income which actually reduces overall societal well-being, not just for the poor, but across the income spectrum.

Real economic efficiency implies including all resources that affect sustainable human well-being in the allocation system, not just marketed goods and services. Our current market allocation system excludes most non-marketed natural and social capital assets and services that are critical contributors to human well-being. The current economic model ignores this and therefore does not achieve real economic efficiency. A new, sustainable ecological economic model would measure and include the contributions of natural and social capital and could better approximate real economic efficiency.

The new model would also acknowledge that a complex range of property rights regimes are necessary to adequately manage the full range of resources that contribute to human well-being. For example, most natural and social capital assets are public goods. Making them private property does not work well. On the other hand, leaving them as open access resources (with no property rights) does not work well either. What is needed is a third way to propertize these resources without privatizing them. Several new (and old) common property rights systems have been proposed to achieve this goal, including various forms of common property trusts.

The role of government also needs to be reinvented. In addition to government’s role in regulating and policing the private market economy, it has a significant role to play in expanding the “commons sector”, that can propertize and manage non-marketed natural and social capital assets. It also has a major role as facilitator of societal development of a shared vision of what a sustainable and desirable future would look like. As Tom Prugh, myself, and Herman Daly have argued in our book “The Local Politics of Global Sustainability,” strong democracy based on developing a shared vision is an essential prerequisite to building a sustainable and desirable future.


The long term solution to the financial crisis is therefore to move beyond the "growth at all costs" economic model to a model that recognizes the real costs and benefits of growth. We can break our addiction to fossil fuels, over-consumption, and the current economic model and create a more sustainable and desirable future that focuses on quality of life rather than merely quantity of consumption. It will not be easy; it will require a new vision, new measures, and new institutions. It will require a redesign of our entire society. But it is not a sacrifice of quality of life to break this addiction. Quite the contrary, it is a sacrifice not to.

Robert Costanza, “Toward a new sustainable economy”, real-world economics review, issue no. 49, 12 March 2009, pp. 20-21,

That's a nice emphasis on the positive. That's a much better approach than the "you're going to get poor, you better learn to like it" that seems to be pretty clearly implicit in some people's thinking.

There are a lot of ways in which life needs to get better. There's no reason we can't do that sustainably.

That's how I would redefine "growth".

I dissent. We ARE unavoidably going to becoming materially poorer. We ARE going to have to shrink, not grow when it comes to material consumption. It's improper to sugar coat that.

Where I begin to agree again is in saying that this need not impoverish our lives if it is done correctly. And certainly there has to be an exploration of the property relationships appropriate to the new era of reduced material consumption.

Redefining growth is not a straighforward way of explaining the matter. People know what the current definition of growth is. Growth is out of the question. Improvements in life there can be, but not via growth as commonly understood.

The underground physical resources, hydrocarbons in particular, that underpin industrialism are depleting, and industrialism itself will wind down in this century (and winding down does not necesarily exclude collapse at some point).

I would go further and say that there is a name for the system we have: capitalism. What gets done only gets done if there is profit in it. That's what has to change. When the common good is in conflict with profitability, it must be possible for the common good to trump profit considerations, at least in matters of survival. Until that changes, we're screwed. There's no way to put a happy face on that either. Capitalism has a powerful constituency in case anywone hasn't noticed.

"We ARE unavoidably going to becoming materially poorer....The underground physical resources, hydrocarbons in particular, that underpin industrialism are depleting"

This is a basic question, and a long discussion. I hadn't really intended to go there, as I was really talking to Nate.

OTOH, I guess it needs to be addressed. I'm not sure you're open to new info, but there are certainly people reading (lurking) who would be interested. So, here goes - here are a few posts from my site:
Can oil can be replaced?
would reducing CO2 emissions be that hard, if we really wanted to?

How pessimistic should we be?

Your optimism is refreshing and always backed up by some good links/facts or well reasoned arguments. Peak oil does not =peak energy!

I must admit to being pessimistic that CO2 levels will not be controlled until serious damage is done to ocean life by declines in pH and [CO3 =] ion.

Thanks for the compliment!

I agree about ocean acidification - that's a good example of why I'm less optimistic about climate change than I am about peak oil: ultimately, our FF consumption is under our control, while our effects on the planet are much less so due to lag times and positive feedback.

I'm not sure you're open to new info, but there are certainly people reading (lurking) who would be interested.

Why resort to a comment like that?

I meant no criticism - I regret if any was felt. I've just had many experiences of people who, IMHO, had a hard time hearing this info.

You (and Mr. Costanza) would have to define "sustainably". Please do....

I'm puzzled by your question - I would have thought it was straightforward: FF's will run out, and wind and sun* won't.

*and nuclear, if that's your thing, at least in any reasonable timeframe.

You said: "There are a lot of ways in which life needs to get better. There's no reason we can't do that sustainably." Now you add: "FF's will run out, and wind and sun* won't."
"Sustainably" then, is merely having an alternative for FF?
So, you want life to get better without FF, until (just a guess) you'll run out of copper or something else? In that case "sustainably" for you is just having a longer time frame than the point of FF depletion.

I don't see people living off wind or sun directly.

""Sustainably" then, is merely having an alternative for FF?"

No, I was trying to give a short answer, and get some feedback.

"life to get better without FF, until (just a guess) you'll run out of copper or something else? "

No, of course not. I'm including in "sustainable" all resource consumption and ecosystem injury. I hope that any sensible participant in this debate would also include things that don't necessarily directly affect humanity, like extinctions.

"I don't see people living off wind or sun directly.

?? Are you pointing out that wind turbines and PV/CSP need resources such as copper? I would agree, and point out that copper has a lot of substitutes, principally aluminum, of which we have so much that they're effectively unlimited (of course, we'd need to mine them thoughtfully).

But you seem to take some latitude with the word "sustainable". I cannot conceive of wind turbines and PV/CSP without any collateral damage for resource consumption or the ecosystem.

Zero damage isn't necessary. Reduce the damage by 95%, and it reduces the scale of the damage to the zone where 1) the ecosystem can absorb it, at least in the short term, and 2) it becomes easy to repair the damage afterwards.

In particular, reduce CO2 emissions by 95%, and climate change impacts are reduced to the range where natural negative feedbacks can handle it, at least in the short term, and 2) sequestration of various sorts is feasible. Of course, we have a very large overhang of CO2 already in the atmosphere and ocean, but that's a slightly different question than the one we're discussing.

By what standard do you establish "95% reduction"?
1. Ecosystem does absorb everything by definition. The question is what is desirable.
2. Ease of repair. Do you mean by repair: how to put C back into the ground? (I assume you want to keep the O2). I wonder how easy that will be, ever.

Let's take wind turbines. How would you equate (put a value)the adverse effects such as lost bats, copper depletion and visual pollution to the positive effects of reduction in CO2 emissions for example? At what point do we "get a better life"?

Compared to what; coal? NG?

Such a comparison would be a lengthy one, as mining impacts, resource depletion, other pollutants (NOx, SOx, mercury, etc), wastes (ash), etc also have to be taken into consideration. Barring an full exposition in this thread, it's clear to me that the impacts from coal mining/burning FAR outweigh any from wind power generation, and impacts from combustion of natural gas outweigh wind impacts. YMMV.

"By what standard do you establish "95% reduction"?"

That's pretty straightforward. It's generally well accepted on TOD that wind has an E-ROI of at least 20:1. Wind energy output is carbon-free, so wind energy reduces CO2 by 20:1, or 95%.

Actually, it gets better than that, as wind's E-ROI is generally close to 50:1, which gives 98% reduction, and in some cases the power displaced by wind will come primarily from coal, and the energy inputs to turbine construction and installation will also include oil, natural gas and nuclear, which are lower CO2 than coal, so wind may actually reduce CO2 by 99%.

"Ecosystem does absorb everything by definition. "

uhhmmm, you can certainly think of it that way, but I don't think that's the general definition, and I don't think it would be helpful. As I understand it, there's something close to a general consensus in the climatology community that if anthropogenic CO2 emissions to date had been somewhere in the range of 25% of what they have been, we'd be in pretty good shape, but that we're now in the range where we may push the global climate system into a whole new range of behavior.

"Do you mean by repair: how to put C back into the ground?"


"I wonder how easy that will be, ever"

It's perfectly easy. Just grow plants, and then bury or store them in some form where they won't decay and release their carbon.

"the adverse effects such as lost bats"

Sheesh. See my other comment on birds & bats.

"copper depletion"

1) It's not lost, and 2) copper is easily replaced with aluminum for power and glass for telecom.

"and visual pollution"

Sheesh, again. First, in the US, at least, there are lots of farm locations where the farmers are dying to have turbines. 2nd, lots of people find turbines beautiful. 3rd, which looks better: wind turbines or strip mining and mountain top removal?

"At what point do we "get a better life"?"

Keep healthy; have a good marriage and lots of friends; find meaningful work; and power your electric vehicles and appliances with sustainable electricity.

You mean "sustainable electricity" from wind? Which is per your thinking (and of course the other "well accepted on TOD"; always funny when ppl make claims to "well accepted stuff") 95% reduction of CO2. Which you seem also to equate to "E" or Eroi??

Do you have an idea how much biomass would have to be buried and at what depths? Easy? And if that would work, why wouldn't it work also for the CO2 from FF? Problem solved?
How much aluminum can be made with the electricity of one windturbine?

Windturbines claim a whole lot more land for similar output than a coal-fired plant and NG would even claim much less, so windturbines have by definition a whole lot more visual impact.

Oh, and now we would need to power our vehicles and appliances with that "well accepted" sustainable electricity in order to have a "better life"? I am not convinced it is that simple...

"You mean "sustainable electricity" from wind?"


"95% reduction of CO2. Which you seem also to equate to "E" or Eroi??"

That's the way it works out. If we have to invest Fossil Fuel 1 kilowatt hour into wind turbine manufacturing to get 20 KWHs produced, and if the 20 KWH's are zero-CO2, then we've reduced the CO2 per KWH by 95%. Of course, if you get 50:1, then it's 98%, and if the KWH input is low CO2 and the 50KWH's replaced by the wind production are high CO2, then we're doing even better.

"Do you have an idea how much biomass would have to be buried and at what depths?"

Quite a lot.


In principle.

"And if that would work, why wouldn't it work also for the CO2 from FF?"

Because, as you note, it's hard to scale up. You need to cut the problem down to size first. That's what wind power does.

"How much aluminum can be made with the electricity of one windturbine?"

I'm not sure what you're asking, really. Wind power is affordable, and scalable, if that's what you're asking.

"Windturbines claim a whole lot more land for similar output than a coal-fired plant "

uhmmm. Have you ever seen a coal plant? A strip mine? Keep in mind, you have to space turbines, but each turbine only uses a tiny bit of land - maybe 1/3 acre. You can use the land in between - for farming, for example.

" windturbines have by definition a whole lot more visual impact."

No. Again, First, in the US, at least, there are lots of farm locations where the farmers are dying to have turbines - they're the only ones looking at them, and they want them. 2nd, lots of people find turbines beautiful. 3rd, which looks better: wind turbines or strip mining and mountain top removal? Really?

"now we would need to power our vehicles and appliances with that "well accepted" sustainable electricity in order to have a "better life"?"

Why would dirty power improve life? I'm puzzled - you're against climate change, right?

So, you say it's "easy" and at the same time it's "hard" to bury C? Which is it?

I find it surprising that you can claim something like "aluminum is not a problem" and at the same time you seem to dislike strip mining. Isn't aluminum strip mined? Or is that just not close enough to your backyard or country that you don't mind? By the way by some estimates the electricity costs alone to smelt enough aluminum for a transmission line from the wind farm to the next node (interconnect), may equate to 10% of the generated electricity of the windfarm. (assumptions: input 5000 MWh/mile; 100mi interconnect; 30 years; output: 160GWh per year)

The best wind locations are often on ridges not cultivated by farmers. So, what's the difference between seeing "mountain top removal" and "artificial spikes" ie. wind turbines? Especially since the last ones would cover a whole lot more area.

Dirty power is bad enough. But I think you propose wind turbines as a panacea to obtain a "better life". I am supportive of wind energy, but I want to stress that that too has drawbacks. And that it's hard enough to figure out which is really better.....

"So, you say it's "easy" and at the same time it's "hard" to bury C? Which is it?"

It's all a matter of scale. It's easy to do, but you have to do quite a lot of it to make a difference. If you knock down the problem by 95-99% first, that makes all the difference.

If you stop digging the hole, you can start filling it...

"Isn't aluminum strip mined? "

Again, it's a question of scale. Strip mines (for bauxite or coal) can be remediated quite well, but coal mining is a very, very big operation.

"aluminum for a transmission line"

Could I trouble you for your source?

"The best wind locations are often on ridges not cultivated by farmers. "

Sometimes. In the US, we have plenty elsewhere, if that's a problem.

"So, what's the difference between seeing "mountain top removal" and "artificial spikes" ie. wind turbines?"

Good lord, if you can't see the difference on the face of it, I'm losing hope of communicating with you. One is almost zero impact (yes, you might have a small access road), the other removes the mountain top and dumps it in the valleys and streams below!

"I am supportive of wind's hard enough to figure out which is really better"

It's really not. I'm guessing, but I have to speculate that you're spending way too much reading flaky anti-wind websites. "artificial spikes" sounds just like the people who like to call wind "industrial", to attempt to make wind power evoke images of industrial smoke stacks belching soot...

I'm guessing, but I have to speculate that you're spending way too much reading flaky anti-wind websites.

Tilting at windmills.

Yes, indeed.

And think how picturesque those Spanish windmills are...

Windturbines claim a whole lot more land for similar output than a coal-fired plant and NG would even claim much less, so windturbines have by definition a whole lot more visual impact.

However wind turbines don't monopolise the land they are on - you can still grow crops or graze animals on the land (or laternatively, use barren and useless land - unlike most coal and nuclear plants, wind turbines don't need large volumes of water).

As for visual impact, personally I like the sight of modern turbines - they ook graceful and can enliven a dull landscape.

Coal fired power stations, on the other hand...

We must educate people to see the need to examine carefully the allegations of the technological optimists who assure us that science and technology will always be able to solve all of our problems of population growth, food, energy, and resources.

Chief amongst these optimists was the late Dr Julian Simon, formerly professor of economics and business administration at the University of Illinois, and later at the University of Maryland. With regard to copper, Simon has written that we will never run out of copper because “copper can be made from other metals.” The letters to the editor jumped all over him, told him about chemistry. He just brushed it off: “Don’t worry,” he said, “if it’s ever important, we can make copper out of other metals.”

Now, Simon had a book that was published by the Princeton University Press. In that book, he’s writing about oil from many sources, including biomass, and he says, “Clearly there is no meaningful limit to this source except for the sun’s energy.” He goes on to note, “But even if our sun was not so vast as it is, there may well be other suns elsewhere.” Well, Simon’s right; there are other suns elsewhere, but the question is, would you base public policy on the belief that if we need another sun, we will figure out how to go get it and haul it back into our solar system? (audience laughter)

Dr. Albert Bartlett

I don't believe you are trying to accuse Nick of saying that we can make Copper from other metals.. but he IS saying we can use other metals as conductors, like aluminum. There is also a vast amount of copper that can be recovered and reallocated towards productive and durable power supplies like wind.

No I'm not accusing Nick of saying we can make copper from other metals.

I am actually using aluminum wires in a test system with a small 45 watt PV panel with reasonably good results. Plus my brother has a metal recycling business in Sao Paulo Brazil so I'm also aware of what can and cannot be recovered.

However I thought the excerpt from Dr. Bartlett's lecture was pertinent in the sense that it underscores how sometimes well intentioned intelligent people who are respectable members of their communities can spread incorrect and sometimes detrimental (to the commons) view points with their unfounded optimism.

To be clear, I'm not accusing Nick, or anyone else for that matter of being unduly optimistic. Just riding on Dr. Bartlett's coat tails to make the point we may have more than a few dragons to slay out there.

Yeah, Simon could get goofy occasionally. OTOH, so could Bartlett, especially about population and immigration.

His best work was 30 years ago, and he hasn't updated his views materially. At that time, talking about projections of infinite exponential growth had some value to them - now, it's becoming a strawman, a distraction.

Thanks for sending this in Nate.

I haven't really thought about how one might handle public goods. The current bad model seems to be allowing water rights be sold to some outside interest, leaving those in need of water to buy it back, if they can afford it.

Clearly, one would like government to take a role in protecting public goods, like fresh water, wildlife, and forests. As we lose fossil fuels, it seems like this will become more and more difficult. Everyone will want whatever water is available for watering their crops. People will want to shoot wildlife for food, and will want to cut down forests, to have wood to burn, and more land to farm. It seems like almost an impossible task, going forward.

It seems to me that the public commons need to be managed at the level which they are used. In the absence (or limited availability) of fossil fuels to transport resources long distances, this would seem to be mostly regionally and locally.

Individual communities have incentive to ensure that no individual burns all the trees, monopolizes all the food (game, land, etc.), dams the water in detrimental ways. Likewise, regionally, communities have an interest in ensuring these same things do not happen at the community level. Properly managed, people and communities can get what they need (assuming sufficient resources exist for the population, and ignoring for the moment the possibility that they might not). If people have what they need, and if societies measure of success can be changed from quantity-based (standard of living) to quality-based (quality of life), then people should have no incentive to hoard or compete, and a great deal of incentive to cooperate.

However, this is only one possible outcome. Competition for resources could just as well rule the day as could cooperation. Still, over the long term, it would seem to be in the general interest to go the way of cooperation. The rub is that, if the mechanism for cooperation is not in place when a crisis arrives, the instinctive reaction, based on our current societal order, will be competitive with what I'm afraid will be unpleasant results.

The question then becomes, without a competition-creating feeding-frenzy crisis at hand, how can we initiate a move to change society's measuring stick. Or, at a more logistical level, what policies and procedures could be put in place to help guide people towards a cooperative quality-based approach and away from the current competitive quantity-based approach before The Crisis arrives? Could the federal government role be to get these starter policies in place, even if the policies and procedures themselves would, by necessity, eventually be administered regionally and locally?


Thanks ... !

It's interesting living at the end of a cycle; this is how Europeans had to feel at the end of the 19th century. What comes next? Who knows ... ?

Most of the discussions leave somethings out. This is the nature of the game. One thing for sure is all our problems will solve themselves, we humanoids need do nothing other than bicker and pose.

One thing I'm sure of is the current political structure is a 'transition team'. I suppose all were hired to take the hits guaranteed by nature ... or is it /NATURE!!!/ Obama is almost finished and the various hacks, lobbyists' foils and white collar criminals will seek the solace retirement and book deals. The next generation (or cadre or whatever) will be much more hard- nosed and practical. I can feel it in my bones. First of all, there will be little left to steal and whatever paper wealth accumulated during the last fifty or so years will be actually worth very little. The nature problems will be pronounced and the deniers will have removed themselves or been ejected from the dialog. Corporates will be bankrupt and religion will be madly reforming itself.

At the same time, Americans will learn how to go on strike and paralyze the government, shut down busineses and basically relearn the skills and duties of citizenship. A smart leader will convince the public to throw away the TVs and do something useful. If nature can get a helping hand rather than a swift kick in the ass it will respond with its accustomed generosity. Maybe not more petroleum but good water and mild weather, an amelioration of toxic oonditions. In time, the accretions of consumer 'culture' (whatever that is) can be disposed of.

At that point, we Americans will consider ourselves wealthy indeed. Going somewhere will become an adventure and a chance to learn, our cities and towns will be on course to being appealing places to live and living will gain responsibility.

This last is what has been lacking for decades. As far as we stripping the land; I don't think that will be necessary. A little good husbandry goes a long way. We Americans take excess for granted because there has always been so much ... stuff. Eliminating the stuff ... will remove a lot of the demands that the stuff makes on both ourselves and the country.

Hey! Maybe I'll buy a typewriter.

Hey! Maybe I'll buy a typewriter.

Have you ever tried to repair an old typewriter? Where you going to get the ribbon? Are you going to make your own paper? I guess you'll need to restart the pony express as well...

I say go with a stone tablets and chisel, fewer moving parts equals less maintenance ;-)

These things aren't that hard. Yes, there are challenges, but come on..

Those things are hardy little buggers. My brother has a sweet little collection of old typewriters, and several have gotten oiled and adjusted so that they work very nicely. You can rebend the letter-arms easily, which is often the worst of the decay they have suffered.. otherwise, they can be kept in running order for decades. Reinking the ribbon is considerably easier than doing the Times Crossword puzzle, and finding a strip of fabric to replace a worn out one is hardly a Doctoral problem either.

I know you were being cute.. but there will still be paper.. and if distant suppliers dry up, people will replace them. It's again, not that hard..

when those markers are allowed to deviate too far from reality, “adjustments” must ultimately follow and crisis and panic can ensue

I have a problem with anyone saying this and not mentioning the word "transparency". One of America's founding fathers (I think) said that a free press is more important than voting rights for a free society. Even old-fashioned USSR-style bureaucratic socialism would work reasonably well in a context where everyone could see everything that was happening in the economy, and was free to discuss it. At the other end of the spectrum we have modern capitalism with unlimited ability to buy and sell, but nobody knows what companies are doing, what's on their books. The light is more important than the freedom to move around.

  • The price for companies of "limited liability" should be zero privacy. No private agreements with other legal entities. Ditto for governments.
  • We need continuous open vigorous well-funded technical numerical investigations of the facts relative to the economy (in Constanza's wide sense).

It is not just criminals who seek privacy and secrecy for commercial dealings, but certainly criminals always do. Without transparency things drift to criminality. For example the world of commerce isn't divided neatly into Ponzi and non-Ponzi. Any time a company is paying dividends and raising money at the same time then the payments may turn out to have been Ponzi-like if investments work out badly, and it must be tempting to let things drift in that direction by expressing more hope for investment plans than is genuinely felt.

We need to be aware that the world is full of people who know what's good for us. Some, like Robert Constanza, perhaps actually do. These are not the people who are likely to end up on top after any revolution. If any country might actually value and implement greater levels of transparency then it is America. It gets mentioned in elections and forgotten soon after. This is the essential difficult first step on the journey Robert Constanza wants us to take.

Nate said:

But the advertisers might not like it....

Boy Nate does this hit the mark.

I recommended Daly, Costanza, and Charlie Hall (among others) to a few members of the transition team after the election. My point was that if science was going to be restored to its place in our policy process, then scientific-based economics ought to get a play. Got no response at all. Faith and religious-like conviction is a thing to behold for its impenetrability. Or might it just be politics?

Sadly it is politics. Though I share much of the same vision of how things 'might' work, I see no viable path for the people in charge (billionaires, lobbyists, politicians, TV personalities that have large followings etc.) to change.

The Maximum Power Principle is a guiding force in nature - basically those organisms that maximized the energy return per unit time have had adaptive advantages (optimal foraging theory). Humans use exosomatic energy AND have culture - we don't go around calculating EROI on the fly because ENERGY return per unit time doesn't help us like it would a cheetah. What we do on the fly is calculate social advantage and tribal politics - this has (until VERY recently) been correlated with money in most sectors of society. When you combine this fact with studies on addiction, habituation, evolutionary neuroscience etc. showing that we 'choose' things that are maladaptive - just as a cheetah choosing what prey will give it the highest EO/EI, MPP translates in the human sphere to people 'choosing' to maximize their social influence per unit time -(speculative I know - but I think there is a linkage - this also is origin of steep discount rates).

How people in power will choose a 'lower social/monetary output per unit time' when they are ensconced in the old paradigm escapes me. I think what we are doing here on the oil drum, and what people like Bob Costanza are doing, is educating those who will one day be calling the shots - perhaps some even reading this now. Really hard for me to envision Obama, Geithner, Summers etc taking more than one or two steps away from current reality. What Bob suggests is about five steps. Still, I could be wrong, and hope I am.

One difference between my views and Bobs is the length of our genetic imperatives. I think our genetic leashes are a bit shorter than I think he does. However, after reading Not By Genes Alone by Richerson and Boyd and other recent research on gene/culture co-evolution he recommended, I do believe we have a chance at positive cultural change even in the face of resource per capita drop, (but also that culture has a darker side, one suppressed by an era of cheap energy). The greatest challenge is going to be to build social capital and a safety net so that people aren't left so far behind that there is violence. I agree with Bob that it would be a sacrifice not to choose this path, but the odds are not high we'll choose it before we hit bottom.

(Exculpatory note: I have a wicked flu+ - the above is coherent to me but my legs feel like they're 400 lbs.)

The maximum power principle does not apply to people. We have rational thought. We can make nuclear power plants. The ability to do this is not one or even several alleles it is a summation of moderns science and supporting idustry. You continually post on the assumption we evolved to live as small tribes of hunter gatherers. This is like saying infants grow into schoolchildren. It is true but discounts the potential of the future. We are still evolving and able to evolve. A cheetah does not choose to chase a gazelle, when he is hungry and a gazelle runs by he eats it. Even pack hunters are exhibiting instinctual behavior (save dolphins). We are being drug down by bad policies not by bad genes or bad coding in our brains. The US has a 4 year attention span at best for voting so the policies we need to enact are difficult to write into law.

OilMed, I love your posts, but on this one you might want to reconsider.

"We are being drug down by bad policies not by bad genes or bad coding in our brains"

It's not a question of whether any of our genes, or our brains, are "bad" - the question is "how do our genes affect our decision-making/behavior" in this current world?

I believe Nate and his mentor, etc., are trying to tease out some of the genetically-transferred instinctual biases we have, and then hopefully make our leaders aware of these tendencies and blinders.

"assumption we evolved to live as small tribes of hunter gatherers"

Our ancestor's brains evolved (were molded) by those conditions over tens of thousands of years. The genes we have right now were "collected" by our genome during that time.

Our "free will" and "rational thought" are firmly limited by the brain chemistry and anatomy of that old, small-tribal brain.

And while our technology and culture in general has now been "molding" our old, hard-wired brain for a few thousand years, as Nate's many past posts show, research by people in many fields suggest we are still mostly slaves to our much older "small tribe" brain.

(edit: Brain's 'irrelevance filter' Found

""The basal ganglia are very strong candidates for involvement in brain disorders where people have difficulty with attentional control.

...there will be many brain regions that filter irrelevant information, so it is too early to tell if these findings ..." )

(if their findings can help Timmy and Ben ?)

Our choice in bad diet ie potato chips and their salty starchy goodness is due to evolution. Real decisions like which car to buy or what law to pass are rational ones. Uneducated rational decisions can be bad ones but we are not compelled or into or craving bad fiscal policy. You can't put quotes around free will. It either is or it isn't. People make decisions they are responsible for. If you educate people on why you should do X behavior and not Y behavior and the consequences are visibly in favor of X...they will do it. Most people will recycle if it is easy. I lived in Brasil for 2 years and everything was recycled or composted. Thats in a supposed 3rd world country. Many of their recent ancestors ( a percentage higher than ours) were in the stone age until recently. So genes are not forcing them or us to make bad decisions.

We could get lost in a thousand tangents in this discussion.

Maybe read Nate's previous posts and/or google "psychology of car buying" or something like it.

You might be surprised to find how easily our "free will" can be hijacked and directed during the decision making process.

If our free will gets hijacked its by the dealer. Sorry I can't agree here, I am inside my own head and know how I make decisions. I am extremely purposeful.

You are an exception then.

I see no viable path for the people in charge (billionaires, lobbyists, politicians, TV personalities that have large followings etc.) to change.

There was a discussion yesterday about anger and change with both Ghandi and M.L. King mentioned. Here is where anger is so very appropriate. When channeled into productive expression, e.g. protests, marches, demonstrations, strikes, there is a great possibility of change in a shorter term than the political process alone allows for. This is the only mechanism I see by which relatively short-term change can occur: an activated and activist public.

Of course, this requires a certain degree of being of one mind. A starting point for these movements might be the transition towns, relocalization, Post-Carbon, EcoVillages, etc., where like-minded people pool resources and information in order to directly inform the public. There is no doubt such a thing would need to synthesize into a large confederation with at least some basic tenets at the center.

In fact, eventually, it would have to go global or we end up with a bunch of yahoos somewhere with power and/or force of arms starting the whole me/mine/ours (my group) process over again.

So, I agree with you in that I don't see the willingness to go into the streets, regardless of how peaceably, so the lone avenue of change likely is closed.

Hmmm... I said the lone avenue of change, but a major disaster that highlights how at risk the global community is might do it too. That, however, is almost certain to be a case of too little, too late.


P.S. One of the weaknesses of what you all do here is the limited ability to get to the level of Jane Soccer Mom and Joe Little League Coach, King and Queen of Suburbia. That's a great presentation above, but if I chose 100 neighborhoods at random and showed that, I'm betting I'd get 99/100 households either completely overwhelmed by info they don't understand or just bored to death. Well, there'd be a whole lot of "communist! Socialist!" tossed about, too, most likely.

It might be worth the effort to start slicing and dicing some of these presentations into digestible chunks of info. That's something my teaching makes me good at, if any of you think this avenue is worth exploring.

Action yes, anger no.

Look at Greenish's comments: he uses humor and irony, not criticism or ridicule, and his writing is infinitely more effective for it. Similarly, I've been reading McKibben's Deep Economy, and I'm struck by the humor and lack of personal attack or guilt-induction.

Inject anger into your activism, and you become an enviro-nut, easily written off.

Hear, hear!

'If you want to lose someone's attention, Scream.'

Both of you saw the word anger and apparently stopped reading, 'cause what I said is not what you said I said.

The key phrase is "channeled into productive expression." Unless you are claiming you have never felt anger and subsequently never then cooled down, yet acted. That, my friends, is redirecting your anger. The original anger is the impetus for the eventual action. Anger = energy = action.

Folks, this is basic psych here.


Well, I should have acknowledged that I liked most of what you said -the point on anger is, perhaps, a minor one. Nevertheless, I think it's worth trying to take to a resolution.

Yesterday, I was talking about both tactics and motivation. What you're saying here is related solely to motivation.

"The original anger is the impetus for the eventual action. "

Anger is a common, perfectly normal reaction, and it's a healthy form of catharsis to deal with frustration. If you've been blocked by something, feeling and processing anger may be a healthy and necessary step to taking action.'s not necessary in all cases.

Think about your daily life - there are plenty of actions you take that aren't preceded by anger, and for which anger is not a necessary motivation: you just see there is a need for action (of varying degrees of urgency), and you take action. Social change and large issues are the same way.

Now, maybe you're talking about the sense of outrage one feels when one sees something deeply wrong. Well, I'd agree that anger can be a perfectly normal reaction. But, I don't think it's the source of one's energy or motivation.

I'd say motivation comes more from one's deep desire to build a good world, and make things right for the things and people one cares about. If you'll forgive me for saying something that may seem pretty fuzzy, I'd say that it's something akin to love. That's the kind of thing that really fuels us.

What you are trying to claim is that you can watch a "bad" thing happen and react only happily to it. You basically contradict yourself by acknowledging anger exists but then simplifying action as the result of love with the anger irrelevant. This simply is not the case.

If you see/know of a "bad" thing happening and then react, your have, to quote Calvin and Hobbes, transmogrified the anger into action. The love is an additional motivation, not the only motivation.

Besides which, nature and her Laws teach us a system in stasis will tend to remain there. No anger/outrage/whatever = stasis = no change.

It's not worth a long string on this, suffice to say my psych studies support this perspective as does my experience in life. Few are so "good" that their only motivation to act is love.


Well, this gets complex and fuzzy. I'll give it a shot.

"What you are trying to claim is that you can watch a "bad" thing happen and react only happily to it."

Not exactly. I do think that anger is a lizard-brain kind of thing, which depends on one's personal sense of being threatened, and I do think that one's emotional response will depend greatly on how one interprets what one sees. If we demonize our opponents, and turn them into what our lizard-brain will interpret as something like a predator threat, we'll react one way. If we see human beings, much like ourselves, who are operating out of misinformation and/or their own fears, we'll react another.

Also, what I'm trying to say is that the anger is a short-term thing, and not the "fuel", or "energy" that supports long-term action.

" No anger/outrage/whatever = stasis = no change."

So, daily action requires constant anger? Going to work, and persisting on a difficult project, requires anger either at the beginning of the project, or during it's progress?

"my psych studies support this perspective"

I'd be curious to see the research. Do you have links?


Dude, you are twisting things way out of shape.

1. You seem to think my post in this thread was some sort of refutation of what you said in the other thread. I used it only as a reference to introduce my comments here so they were not completely left field for this DrumBeat.

2. I don't get the sense you've studied this issue? Would that be accurate? I say this because some of your comments neither reflect the psych lit nor what I have posted.

3. I stated I wasn't interested in pursuing this issue.

So, I encourage you to re-read my comments and take them exactly as written. I do not, in conversation or in posts online, infer, imply, or in any way mask what I mean to say. I write exactly what I intend for others to understand. Now, I may not do so well or as clearly as I think I have, but there is never any hidden agenda.

I will repeat here for clarity:

- anger happens
- anger can be channeled positively
- anger is channeled positively
- anger is channeled positively in both short- and long-term ways, but this depends somewhat on how you see the connections
- I obviously am not saying you need to be angry to tie your shoes


"You seem to think my post in this thread was some sort of refutation "

No, I understand. I did think at first that you were continuing the previous conversation (by saying "Here is where anger is so very appropriate. "), and then, when you responded, I saw that you weren't. I just thought that the question of anger as motivation was still worth talking about, in part because I thought there was potential harm from encouraging a response that came from anger.

"some of your comments [don't] reflect ...what I have posted."

My first comment was a bit off-base - I thought you were talking about "angry activists". I see now that you didn't mean to encourage that kind of thing.

"some of your comments [don't] reflect the psych lit"

I have studied quite a bit, but not academically. I'd encourage you to be open to ideas that seem unconventional (kind've like ecological economics). Perhaps I've missed something - could you point me to some of what you're thinking of?

"I stated I wasn't interested in pursuing this issue." seemed worth pursuing, to me. I didn't mean to imply any criticism. I just like to take conversations to a resolution (agreement, if possible), if I can.

" I encourage you to re-read my comments and take them exactly as written."

I tried, really. I think I did, after the first mistake.

" there is never any hidden agenda."

No, I didn't think there was.

"I will repeat here for clarity:"

Thanks. Let me clarify - I didn't mean to suggest that you were doing anything negative in the conversation. I just thought the question of whether we should encourage anger as a primary source of continuing motivation was important, and worth discussing. As I think about, my concern is less about whether fear and anger can serve as motivation (clearly, it sometimes can), but whether people think well with that kind of motivation.

Again, if you can point me to a relevant representative reference, I'd be obliged. OTOH, if you're tired of the conversation...well, I understand.


Actually, I did some looking, but found nothing that perfectly addressed the issue, but a lot that supported it. It's been a good while since I was a student and counselor, so have nothing off the top of my head.

* Yes, anger is negative if not handled and focused into more productive action. One counseling job I had used a/the "I see, I think, I feel" to help clients differentiate thought from emotion, take responsibility for their thoughts and emotions and express them appropriately rather than angrily.

To wit: "I see you are a denialist who is distorting the evidence. I think this is wrong and dangerous. I think you should stop this, and be prosecuted eventually if not. I feel really angry, frustrated and helpless that people like you act in such a callous and selfish manner."

No, not directed at you, just a silly example.

* No, I'm not advocating anger as a general tool, but am not as afraid of it as some are, and see it having more utility than others might and see it as manageable by some even when directly expressed. Sometimes people get a little too intellectual about these things and ignore the reality they see around them. That said, refer back to the first phrase in this bullet.

* That one focuses one's anger does not mean the energy therein has no bearing on the actions that follow. The anger is often the impetus that breaks the inertia and gets movement going.

Sorry, my problem here is that this is all really obvious to me, so not very interesting, and this just isn't the place for this discussion. It's better suited with people one is involved in taking active steps with.


What I've been noticing, to use your 'denier' example, since that is exactly where I see it happening.. is that those angry posts to the deniers are the least effective in this kind of a forum. You have a lot of information, have done a lot of study on this topic, and so I and others surely depend on those of you who are calling on the right research to lead the conversation in the best direction. So when it descends into namecalling, scorn and total sarcasm, the message is gone, the information becomes just a hammer to hit someone with.. and I have to disregard the exchange at that point.

Maybe you'd agree with me that those are examples of where the anger over a certain (extremely important and too-often distorted) topic that are not always being channeled very well into positive movement towards a resolution. I'm not afraid of the anger, but I see hundreds of posts here now that seem to be built on the idea that the anger at someone else's 'wrongness' is the way to fix it.. it just increases the heat and noise, reducing engine efficiency.. so to speak. Vicious Circles.. sound and fury, signifying .. 'sound and fury'.

You know I also have the issues and personalities here that Tweak me.. I am deleting a lot of my posts as I write them now, trying to remember when I'm saying something just to be a smartass, really clever, be purely argumentative, or put someone in their place.


SALES CLERK at Bloodbath and Beyond-
"I'm sorry Mr. Simpson, but there's a three-day waiting period for purchasing a handgun in this State."

"..But I'm angry NOW!"

Well, heck, thanks for a really nasty tangent. This is a direction this thread is better off not going in.

I have pointed out the positives of taking on certain denialists head on; no point in repeating them here.

I will leave you with this thought: There is more than one way to skin a cat, but sometimes you you just have to skin the cat.

And I disagree completely with your opening point.

Let's leave it at that as it really *can't* go any further.


Actually, when we get down to concrete examples like this, I'm with you completely. Part of the problem is that when we start getting a bit more abstract, productive discussion gets harder.

"The anger is often the impetus that breaks the inertia and gets movement going."

Exactly - it's an essential therapeutic tool to deal with past trauma that has left an individual feeling and acting powerless. As opposed to something that a movement might mistakenly see as a good way to approach people and issues in an ongoing way.

See, everyone? With extended (careful and polite) discussion and explanation, people can converge and gain consensus. Even on TOD.

Actually, Nick, all anyone needed to do was read my original post. Nothing has been added here that wasn't already indicated there.


Ahem. Not really. Here's what you said:

"There was a discussion yesterday about anger and change with both Ghandi and M.L. King mentioned. Here is where anger is so very appropriate. When channeled into productive expression, e.g. protests, marches, demonstrations, strikes, there is a great possibility of change in a shorter term than the political process alone allows for. This is the only mechanism I see by which relatively short-term change can occur: an activated and activist public."

The first sentence referenced the previous discussion (which discussed anger as a political tactic). The 2nd suggested that encouraging anger was appropriate in order to support social change (as opposed to supporting personal change). The 3rd suggested that anger was a good, indeed primary way to generate the motivation for political change, and the 4th implied that it was necessary (though, of course, you could also interpret that sentence as only referring to political action - but that's not what it says to me - I think most readers would take that as referring to the package of anger and subsequent political action).

So...maybe it just turns out that your original discussion wasn't quite what you meant to say, and it needed a bit of explanation.

Nothing wrong with adding some further explanation to clarify things.


As I think about it, I think the only change needed was to use another word besides anger. Anger's not quite right: It polarizes - it suggests a personal conflict, hostility, and so on.

I can't quite think what it would be, right off the bat. Urgency? Doesn't seem to fit, does it? Something to capture the sense of urgency...something's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't quite find it...

So...maybe it just turns out that your original discussion wasn't quite what you meant to say, and it needed a bit of explanation.

No, you're just ignoring context, Nick. It was a paragraph, not bullet points. It can't be deconstructed as you did, though your deconstruction is the only way to interpret what I wrote as you did.

Context is everything.


"Context is everything."

Well, the overall context included the earlier discussion from which you were segueing, which was very different.

OTOH, you meant something different - you just meant it as an interesting segue, a bit of a throwaway to introduce the idea that a mass movement taking to the streets is needed. I can see why you wanted to include it, but I think the meaning would have been clearer without it.

So, we had a miscommunication, and have now figured it out. Not a big deal.

Anger is an emotion.


Each person has a right to feel how they do. One thing I have noticed is that if people argue about the appropriateness of each others emotions it gets really ugly and then EVERYBODY gets angry.

Some people are happy and excited by the "challenges and opportunities" of collapse and "change." Others are fearful and angry.

I suggest we let people feel the way they do and then see about directing that emotion (whatever it is) into action.

"Anger is an emotion."

There are painful emotions like fear and anger, and others, like hope, determination, love, etc. They work differently.

"E-Motions--Motivate. "

Think of someone rescuing a drowning child. Rescuers report not feeling scared, or angry, just focused on What Must Be Done.

"Each person has a right to feel how they do. "

I agree.

Thanks for this post by Dr. Costanza. What is described would indeed be a heck of an improvement. Lets take the following quick questions and observations with that stipulated.

The essay makes conspicuously repeated reference to "human well-being", and it seems that dolphins, whales, mountain gorillas, rainforests, seabird rookeries, and intact ecosystems may fall under the heading of "natural capital", which as currently practiced is rather synonymous with "raw material". While I recognize this is a document produced by humans for humans (which I find is a not-uncommon theme in current literature) there seems a bit of a tacit assumption of the desirability of "human dominion over nature" as part of ecological economics as described. Correct me if I misunderstand. Is there room for another catagory, the well-being of "other persons" which are non-human and by definition non-capital? Since corporations are considered "persons" in human societies, it might not be unreasonable to grant a similar recognition of "quasi-personhood" to other species, forests, etc though I recognize it would be a harder initial sell.

Are there explicit assumptions made about desirable levels of human biomass versus other species? Another hard sell, but salient. That is, does environmental economics as proposed have anything to say about how many humans should exist at any given time, or does it tactfully avoid that very central environmental consideration?

And how about assumptions about time horizons (say 100 years versus 100,000 years), which might dictate quite different priorities in the here-and-now?

Social fairness in wealth distribution is quite explicity invoked, but conceptually that seems rather the opposite of an environmental consideration. Is that simply included to make the plan more sellable, or do the proponents think there is some environmental basis for human social fairness?

All best, and thanks again.

Hi Greenish,

Are there explicit assumptions made about desirable levels of human biomass versus other species? Another hard sell,

Paul Ehrlich in his book "The Dominant Animal" recognizes the difficulty of trying to "sell" the idea that humans depend upon the diversity of other species and lots of varied habitat. He draws on the work of others to promote the idea of the essential need for "ecosystem services" (pollination by insects, for example) to keep humans humming along. Once you go down this path, it becomes clear how many layers of biodiversity are needed to provide the "services" we need. It becomes readily apparent that the "intact ecosystems" you mention are vital for our continued existence. And, it is hard to see how 8 to 10 billion humans can keep these ecosystems actually "intact".

Thanks to Dr Costanza and commenters.

It has been obvious to me for some time that the West needs a new system,not only in economics but in the broad range of our social organization.We also need a new philosophy,one which gives paramountcy to the health of our spaceship Earth.

The problems caused by our profligacy since the Industrial Revolution are immense.The population overshoot is at the base of this pyramid of woe.

There are many good ideas being floated by wise and well meaning people.Many of these ideas will no doubt be a part of the solution if such is possible.However,given the strength of the forces of reaction,conservatism and plain old ignorance and greed,I think that we are going to need a crash and burn scenario to achieve anything worthwhile.If I wasn't an atheist I would be inclined to give the traditional Catholic response- Lord,have mercy.

Hi again bikedave.

First, let me say I agree with what you say, which pretty much has applied to all of your posts I remember seeing on any subject come to think of it.

But I'll note that relatively few walk down Ehrlich's mental path as far as he or you have; and the conclusions you, he, and I have reached are not readily apparent to the vast majority of humans.

Thus, any proposed new paradigm which leaves this area vague - rather than subject to explicit ecologically-salient goals - rather cedes the argument that limits on absolute human population are a legitimate and necessary consideration.

In a similar vein, after a long career in the environmental trenches, I can't be very sanguine about the notion of selling the totality of the evolved nonhuman world as "ecosystem services" for a single species in overshoot. Yes, it's an easier sell initially, but one inevitably finds that the burden of proof falls upon a hummingbird to make obvious its immediate utilitarian purpose in the service of humanity. If the little slackers don't demonstrate it, they become toast sooner than later.

The above article is, of course, just a short essay on the subject, and I think a lot of what ecological economics seems to be trying to do is on a very good track. However, it doesn't feel to me, on quick perusal here, like it's living up to it's name. There seems to be metaphysical baggage and unexamined non-environmentally-derived assumptions underlying it at the core. Fair enough, if what is intended is a compromise which is significantly better than what it seeks to replace, an environmental-ish economics. I won't criticize anyone for taking their best shot at a rigged game, which human culture surely is.

But if I were doing it, I think I'd trade away "getting through the doorway easily" for "power to plausibly eventually supplant the current economic paradigm". That power would derive from a frank analysis of what actually motivates humans to change belief systems, and I think in this case it should acknowledge the sacred - the spiritually powerful aspects of this world - explicitly within it if possible. (As you can tell from many of my postings, I'm an atheist; so I'm using these terms non-religiously).

Why does almost any human intuitively realize that the extinction of elephants would be worse news emotionally than a plane crash in another country, a more profound loss on some deep level? That watching films of living coral reefs once they no longer exist will properly elicit despair?

Specifically, the centrally obvious problems with "economics" as it is currently practiced is that it is divorced from the real world, and of course this is exactly what needs to be fixed. My point here is that if everything but human biomass and creations are considered "natural capital", unspent tokens to somehow redeem against perceived human needs, our species will continue to spend them quickly.

Unless a new economics acknowledges explicit values and goals in the definitions which constitute it, it may ultimately be little different than what we now have. Still, I tip my hat to the author for trying.

Greenish, good thoughts as usual. I often have this nagging feeling that the whole paradigm, as you mention, of human existence on the planet needs to change if abundant, diverse, complex life has a chance of continuing far into the future. I wish I could envision and articulate what that new paradigm would look like and how to get there. I think I need a higher pay grade.

Once you go down this path, it becomes clear how many layers of biodiversity are needed to provide the "services" we need. It becomes readily apparent that the "intact ecosystems" you mention are vital for our continued existence.

Awareness apparently only goes so far. When I point out that we can't afford hydropower from reservoirs that kill lotic ecosystems stone dead, or that we can't afford wind energy from turbines that place additional stress on bird & bat populations already in decline, I get trashed for my efforts by the elitist "PO aware" cognoscenti who preach acceptance of the lesser evil, rather than the elimination of evil altogether. Electric trains & toothbrushes are apparently more important than the "services" provided by intact lotic ecosystems or robust avian & chiropteran populations.

Eight to ten billion humans can't keep ecosystems intact. We need massive human population reduction and unfortunately, the biosphere can't wait for this to be accomplished by voluntary reduction of the birth rate and attrition. Nature is going to take its course, regardless of all the proposals & arguing we, as contentious apes, so love to indulge in.

Not to be too contentious of an ape, but since when is Nature (why revere it with a capital N?) committed to "the elimination of evil altogether"?

...Nature (why revere it with a capital N?)

Um, because I began a sentence with the word?

Ok, never mind about the N. But why not answer the real question? In your post you seem to have two ideals that "nature is going to take its course" AND that "the evil be eliminated altogether". So, the question remains why you think nature should be bothered with the elimination of evil? Or you could put it this way: why did nature eliminate the dinosaurs and dodos but did not eliminate evil?

"When I point out ... that we can't afford wind energy from turbines that place additional stress on bird & bat populations already in decline, I get trashed for my efforts by the elitist "PO aware" cognoscenti "

That's because the threat to bird & bat populations from wind is relatively tiny, and badly exaggerated. If you say things like that, anybody experienced in this debate will assume that you've been getting your information from the conservative echo-chamber, and dismiss what you have to say.

That's because the threat to bird & bat populations from wind is relatively tiny..

So it is, the operative word there being "relatively." When populations are already stressed and in decline, do they need yet another source of mortality leveled against them, however "relatively" minor it may be? By what logic is a bad thing justified by a plethora of worse things?

When wind turbine impacts account for .00001% of bird mortality, and .0000001% of bat mortality (as a rough guess), and represent a way of reducing climate change induced mortality for many thousands of times for both these species as well as many other species by a scale that is many thousands of times as much just gets silly to talk about wind turbine impacts as a problem.


Not all wind projects are created equally.

And all the info isn't available to the public:

Florida Power & Light’s 44-turbine installation at Mountaineer, WV, where thousands of bats were killed in 2003, the first year of operation. The company now denies access to independent wildlife scientists.

I didn't find the above quote at the anti-wind site you cited. Even if it were, is there verification of the claim at a reliable source?

Greenish, this is just a technicality related to your comment.

Ecological Economics and Environmental Economics are pretty different disciplines. Environmental Economics is more like an extension of neoclassical economics, prettied up a bit. Ecological Economics has a different "preanalytic vision" as Daly calls it, basically a different set of basic premises from neoclassical and environmental economics.

With respect to your question, Ecological Economics would certainly ask the questions you ask regarding human biomass and time horizons. And yes, there are explicit ecological reasons for social fairness.

Here's a radio show I did:

Gund Institute where Costanza is has some great online lectures too.

The current economic model is corrupted, but its problem isn't about granting free market enough power, quite the opposite. Economic cycles of boom and bust and the inefficient use of resources that goes along with them are caused by central banks printing money and injecting it to banks, causing a crucial distortion in market behaviour and creating the illusion of more capital savings than are actually present, which leads to rapid capital use (boom)until it becomes apparent that real savings dont match those projected by the FED or whatever and people start saving capital again(bust)

You speak of people not needing more resources than that which are vital, that is true, but if some coercive force starts to take the excess away, people lose the incentives to create those resources in the first place and poverty ensues in all fields. The only possible sustainable economic system is free market economy, more regulation only makes it less sustainable due to market distortion and decreased incentives for people to take part in a market that is full of regulative annoyances.

The only possible sustainable economic system is free market economy...

For a given value of "sustainable". As Fidel Castro is reported to have said about the importance of the French Revolution in European history, it's too soon to tell. The market capitalism experiment is only 350 years old. And right now, it looks like it has about one and a half generations remaining to it.

In the absence of energy and resource constraints, the outcome of free capitalism is feudalism. With peak oil and diminishing returns on resource extraction... who knows? It won't be pretty, though.

Market capitalism is like perfume. A little of it produces great results. That does not mean that a lot of it is better.

It is clear to me that there is a continuum from totally state controlled socialism to totally free market capitalism (which we do not have and is undesirable anyway). The question is where should we be in the space in between the two.

Too much socialism leads to less growth, stagnation and lowered real incomes and quality of life. Too much capitalism leads to what we have now IMO.

Wealth and income float to the top over time as the most successful collect the most goodies. Eventually wealth becomes so concentrated at the top that the economy can not function. Even the government ceases to function as tax cuts, bailouts and debt are used by the wealthy to increase their fortunes even more. It is free market capitalism gone mad.

Growth ceases since the lower incomes are deprived of necessary resources. Government can not remedy the situation by providing public goods since it has been deprived of revenue (the starve the beast Republican ideology) by tax cuts for the wealthy. The Bush years added to the drain of tax cuts with 2 unending wars, reckless spending and failing to deal with ever increasing oil imports which act like a tax increase only our government doesn't collect the revenue. Instead a foreign government/oil company collects the revenue.

The solution for this problem which was brought on by 30 years of Reaganism is to go left on the continuum to more socialism by taxing the wealthy higher income earners and putting a high tax on imported oil. It will reduce growth which is exactly what is needed. It will redistribute resources to public goods, hopefully not war related, and stabilize the economy.

It took the former Soviet Union 70 years to collapse from too much socialism, but it has taken only 30 years for the United States to collapse from too much capitalism.

Hello Nandnor,

Welcome to TOD! But, with all due respect: I think you need to study more. Without regulation: we might all be suffering liver damage from coumarin [see wiki-link below].

See my earlier posts on vanilla, or google/study the topic for yourself. This is a very expensive spice because it is now almost entirely hand-pollinated due to the entire lack of the melipona beecheii in most markets:
Extinction of Melipona beecheii and traditional beekeeping in the Yucatán peninsula
..And today, even in Mexico, hand pollination is used extensively.

..In an in-vitro test vanilla was able to block quorum sensing in bacteria. This is medically interesting because in many bacteria quorum sensing signals function as a switch for virulence. The microbes only become virulent when the signals indicate that they have the numbers to resist the host immune system response.
Birds, Bats, Bees, and other biota provide trillions$$ in service to us, but our 'free market' does not respond to their plight, but continues to push them over the edge.

I would argue an 'enlightened market' would heavily incentivize us to provide the very best for biodiversity as it would be much cheaper than our FF-powered model in the long run. Consider: How many other plants will we have to hand pollinate as we go postPeak and drive other vital species into extinction?

How would you like to have to hand pollinate citrus for an Entire Month Every Year, if you ever want a glass of OJ or grapefruit, enjoy a lemon pie, or have a slice of lime for your shot of tequilla? How many millions of people would have to be brought to bear to complete this task that is now provided free by Nature? Would you volunteer yourself and your family to hand pollinate our desert Cacti?

A bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitos/hr. I doubt if you could swat that many in a hour [the postPeak definition of 'going batty']. Got blood for malaria, Nile virus, other diseases? Just wait until this white nose fungi, and other diseases and pollution drive the bats into unrecoverable decline.

Another example: we had Guano Wars because bird and bat guano was so valuable as O-NPK [see prior posts in TOD archives].

An 'enlightened market' would force us to develop naturally superphosphated O-NPK everywhere by widespread local building of bird and bat shelters for reliable guano harvesting [plus animal and humanure,too--again, see my prior postings]. This would be much cheaper than the current global industry of I-NPK, which will gradually deplete dispersive I-NPK flowrates to the final topsoil square foot as we go postPeak. The beneficiation of phosphate by sulfur is a crucial step in the current construct of our petrol-agricultural Overshoot. But humans and sulfuric acid don't mix well.

Consider this earlier weblink from one of my postings:
What would the reader think, if he were asked to invest in a gold mine from which all of the ore had been taken out, and, at the end of a year, it had all replaced itself? What would he think, if he had, attached to his mercantile establishment, a warehouse in which, as fast as the goods were removed for display and sale, they would replace themselves without the expenditure on his part of one grain of energy or one cent in money!
Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Birds, Bats, Bees, and other biota provide trillions$$ in service to us, but our 'free market' does not respond to their plight, but continues to push them over the edge.

Bob! How dare you suggest that birds and bats are more important than electrified rail transport? My new plasma TV needs to be transported by rail from the Long Beach port. Are you suggesting that these trains should remain diesel electric? Or powered by electricity generated by filthy coal burning powerplants? That's HERESY here on TOD. Birds & bats have simply got to go. We need more windmills to run the trains !!

My speculation on pedal-power SpiderWebRiding is my exosomatic bridge to Optimal Overshoot Decline. It will force us to live smartly within the natural biometric limits of our endurance, and our territory will be defined by this energetic constraint--same as with other animals.

Hi Bob. Wish I was handyman enuf to construct a way low geared pedal powered dump bed wheelbarrow thingie for bringing firewood up from down near the river in. As it is, I'm still in the market for a pony or donkey for pulling a little wagon. Bringing wood up in a plain old-fashioned wheelbarrow sucks. Hope you didn't miss the sarcasm of my previous post. ;)

Yep, I got the sarcasm. :)

If a draft animal is expensive, I wonder if a medieval catapult could chuck the firewood much closer to your house. May take just as much energy as wheelbarrowing to cock the 'pult-->but sure would be lots more fun.

There's an idea! When my son took high school physics I helped him & a lab partner build a trebuchet. They were graded on how far & how accurately it could hurl a golf ball. Ours was the only design to incorporate bearings, but we failed to appreciate the forces acting on the axle of the throwing arm, and didn't build the supporting structure beefy enuf. It would fling the golf ball straight & far, but often break the supports in the process. Hopefully we learned from that mistake. Now, several years later, we jokingly imagine building an array of large trebs to line the edge of the airport mesa above where we live, for hurling caltrops in advance of charging cavalry, in the aftermath of TSHTF.

These guys might be good to have on your side.

Really Big Catapults

Wow! Guess we aren't the only ones who underestimated the forces acting on those trebs. There are pics on that site of snapped throwing arms the diameter of good sized tree trunks, bent structural I beams, and catapults collapsed sideways. New respect for Roman & medieval military engineers. Thanks for the link!

"May take just as much energy as wheelbarrowing to cock the 'pult"

Heck, a lot less - no friction during travel. Just need really good aim...

Ooops! That log just missed the woodpile & took out the greenhouse.. :)

but if some coercive force starts to take the excess away, people lose the incentives to create those resources in the first place and poverty ensues in all fields.

I don't recall the invocation of a coercive force. Also, there is a simpler, and more effective way we all were supposed to have learned as toddlers: sharing.


the smaller a community is, the more likely that they have common ends and thus are able to share without it causing much capital misuse(ie small group of toddlers, small ).

On the scale of a country of millions however, people have way diverse ends, and thus the only way to make them work for some interest is coercion.

Markets not caring for vanilla plants? If there is demand, if people want to care for them, they will surely donate and start funds to support it. But if they dont want to, its a sign of capital misuse and will lead to less happiness and a less prosperous society.

As for markets being deregulated during the boom, is the following deregulation?

Office of Tax Policy, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Community Development Investment Fund, Office of Thrift Supervision, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Office of Financial Institutions, Office of International Trade, Office of Banking and Securities, Office of Trade Finance, Office of International Monetary Policy, Office of Financial Stability, Import-Export Bank, Exchange Stabilization Fund, Working Group on Financial Markets, Plunge Protection Team, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO)

Federal Reserve Act of 1913, Revenue Act of 1913, Securities Act of 1933, Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Banking Act of 1935, Trust Indenture Act of 1939, Investment Company Act of 1940, Investment Advisors Act of 1940, Employment Act of 1946, Federal Reserve-Treasury Department Accord of 1951, Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, 1970, Commodity Exchange Act of 1970, Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, Federal Reserve Reform Act of 1977, Financial Institutions Regulatory and Interest Rate Control Act of 1978, International Banking Act of 1978, Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, Monetary Control Act of 1980, Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, Plaza Accord of 1985, Lourve Accord of 1987, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991, Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992, National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996, Gramm Leach Bliley Act of 1999, Regulation Fair Disclosure Rule of 2000, Uniform Securities Act of 1956, 1985, 1988 and 2002, Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, Regulation National Market System Rule of 2005, Community Re-Investment Act of 1994

"If there is demand, if people want to care for them, they will surely donate and start funds to support it."

That seems unrealistic. Let's say you support our current military budget of roughly $6,000 per household. In the absence of an income tax, would you be first in line to donate $6,000 to the federal government? If so, how many others would join you, even though they support the idea in theory?

Even if there is 100% consensus on allocating capital to a specific thing, in a competitive world people have to maximize their narrow ends. Especially in business, those who volunteer to make large expenditures will be replaced by those who don't. This makes enforcement of contributions necessary - coercion, if you want to call it that.

The alternative to military and public defense taxes is anarcho-capitalism, which i support. military replaced by a market of PDA-s

the smaller a community is, the more likely that they have common ends and thus are able to share without it causing much capital misuse(ie small group of toddlers, small ).

On the scale of a country of millions however, people have way diverse ends, and thus the only way to make them work for some interest is coercion.

Which is why we use terms like "paradigm shift" to describe the scale of the change necessary.


Excellent analysis - only problem is that with massive AND GROWING federal debts and corporate debts, the emphasis will be even more towards economic growth rather than towards sustainability in the near future to pay down these debts (mind you the inflation I expect in the years ahead will do most of the work for them), despite ploys (at best) on energy efficiency and alternative energy fantasy solutions to crude oil, the western model is now more corporate based than pre 'crisis'.

As far as I can see and read we are moving FURTHER AWAY from economic sustainability models not closer.


Change comes as more and more people experience more and more pain. It has been suggested that Prozac enables people to accept the injustices in their lives rather than working politically to change some of the sources of those injustices. The widespread use of Prozac and other SSRIs is defusing what would be the source of the anger you seek from the body politic. Recreational drug use also serves the TPTB because they numb the pain or act as antidepressants.

Thought of "Soma" and "Opium for the masses" on that one. Googled a bit and found this:

mass murders and suicides on SSRIS:

Scientific paper on risks of SSRIs with number of new users per year over ten years per type (zooloft, Paxil, etc.)

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

So as in Nate's post below the people are getting poorer and the rulers use the talents of the high priests (mdical community) to dope us into submission. 40 million of us on drugs, billions of us enslaved to debt, then TV and computer games, etc. Welcome to 1984. When anybody notices reality they have it easy tuning out, just go to the mall with the credit card or turn on a cheap game show or play a killer video game and then if all does not work get a prescription to Prozac, etc. So when the plug is pulled on the shopping mall / electronic entertainment /pharmaceutical industries then maybe anger will happen. No more distractions means reality hits. The five stages includes anger after denial. Denial is overcome when there are no more ways out, no distractions. Then we have to bargain with ourselves and go into depression before accepting our new way of life. Those 5 stages is for accepting death but if it is not death, an inevitability, but rather criminal machinations of the society, then perhaps more of that anger will be directed against business, politicians, etc. If this brings nothing then we will get depressed. This is what Obama and Geithner have to fear, an awakened populace without distractions, focused on revolt of some sort.

Hi All

I am new to TOD bu have really enjoyed reading the posts over the past few days.

This may be slightly off subject from the post but I am writing an essay at the moment on what the job creation potential of a switch to low input localisewd agriculture in the UK would be. This is the central idea:

With the prospect of dangerous climate change, the end of an abundant fossil fuel energy subsidy, and an economy in recession, we surely need a Plan B?’. Green new deal calls for a ‘transformational program’ to create ‘green collar jobs’ to turn around unemployment and weakening in demand caused by financial meltdown whilst smoothing the transition to a low carbon society.

I would argue that an important part of that transition to a low carbon society will be complete reform of agriculture. With rising unemployment in he UK it would make sense to me for us to be investing in a new generation of skilled agricultural workers trained in low input farming. Instead of paying out benefits we could be investing in our future food security.

Im finding it kinda hard to estimate how much the labour force would have to grow if we were to switch to these methods (low input, pollycropping- to increase yield etc) and attempt to be self sufficientish. nobody seems to have looked at this. the soil association reccon on 93,000 jobs being created by a switch to organic farming but this is a drop in the ocean really when we will soon have 3mill unemployed, and this would not be scaling up production per unit area. Tudge suggests to have 20% of the workforce involved in agriculture would be realistic. Does anyone have any ideas of how to approach this?

for example how many workers are needed to replace a tractor?
could i compare to levels in the 1800's when we had 22% of workforce in farming and were 90% self sufficient and were not using fossil fuels or syntheic fertiliser? obviously we have a much larger population although we do have 26% more land avaliable to cultivation. however population has increased 3 and a half times since then.

If any one has any interest in this, any comments ideas, back of the envelope calculations, sources or links would be much appreciated.

Many thanks

Toodle Pip


Many of the terms used in the paper can not be defined. GDP can not be measured. We know what an ohm is. We know what stress is and how to measure it. If it can't be measured it doesn't exist.

If GDP can't be measured, where are the national accounts figures coming from?

Can the meaning of a symphony be "measured"? If not, does it not exist?

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The costs of socio-economic inequality seem astonishingly high in advanced economies (particularly in the USA) and a recent contribution to a review of the world data adds weight to Constanza et al thesis. A review of a recent book by Wilkinson & Pickett published in UK can be found here


I just watched the video and the powerpoint presentation, what struck me was the marked contrast with what Dr Costanza was saying compared to President Obama's speech last night which was all about promoting economic growth by fixing the broken system.
Could someone please ask him to watch this presentation together with his advisers and then have them take it to world leaders and say "look guys this is what we all need to be shooting for, we in the US get it and are willing to join you in making real change based on an understanding of reality. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

"Could someone please ask (Obama) to watch this presentation together with his advisers"

And while were at it, could we get Nate's essay/post "I Don't Know" published in the NYT or WSJ - that's the audience that needs the message.

(I know it won't happen, it's just wishful thinking on my part)

I copied my post above included a link to Dr Constanza's presentation through TOD and addressed it to President Obama at

Hey you never know maybe someone at the white house will read it.

I'm multicultural and one of my cultures is Brazilian and we have a saying "Agua mole em pedra dura tanto bate ate que fura" which roughly translated means "the softly dripping water if it drips long enough will bore a hole through the hardest of rocks". We just have to keep gently dripping away on the hard resistance to needed change. Drip!Drip!Drip!Drip!Drip!Drip!...

Just a few years ago, a paper like this would be been considered heretical. Now, at least on sites like TOD, it's mainstream. Hopefully, concepts such as these become mainstream at large, so that the uber-consumptive mindset can be reset.

"Who is rich? They who are content with what they have."
- Talmud saying

"As a being of Power, Intelligence, and Love, and the lord of his own thoughts, man holds the key to every situation, and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what he wills."
- James Allen, "As A Man Thinketh", 1902

I posted a variation of this in Gails thread - but I think equity/fiat/real capital interplay is central to both ecological economics and the path forward.

Source: Professor Richard Wolff - U Mass - Amherst

I just rewatched, Capitalism Hits the Fan by UMass Professor Richard Wolff. He asserts that real wages in the US increased every single decade from 1830 to 1970 (including during great depression), but have been flat ever since (and recently declining). But since the 1970s (computers and other inventions) have increased our productivity, and thus corporate profits. But remember, we've been on a total fiat system since 1971. So flat real wages in the face of growing profits would have resulted in too large of wealth disparity which would have lead to social unrest/chaos. There had to be a relief valve, giving the guise that resource limits combined with concentration of wealth had not shut the door on Joe Sixpack. Enter leverage, easy credit, home-equity loans etc. The average person wasn't earning any more, but they were keeping up positional goods consumption because of access to debt. One can see that under an abstract fiat system (where numbers only seem to reflect some underlying reality but actually don't), a dramatic wealth transfer (denominated in dollars) was masked by leverage and borrowing.

It is telling that exponential growth in energy production per capita peaked at exact same time that real wages peaked. (also US peak in oil production and end of natural resource backed currency within 2 years).

This is all linked. More and more I am thinking the largest aspect of Peak Oil is going to be the social inequality that results. The 'free market' will not work if 80-90% of people are broke, and unable to afford energy and other natural resources at prices that the energy and natural resource companies would require to make a profit. I suspect that the next round of GINI coefficient and wealth disparity calculations will show a moonshot towards the right tail. How to keep social stability in this environment will be a herculean task, and likely require new institutions.

Said differently, we have been living well beyond our means not since Peak Oil, but for almost 40 years (and less beyond for longer), - the difference has been made up by borrowing from the future, borrowing from the environment, borrowing from other social classes, and most worrisome, borrowing from thin air.

Taking it a speculative step further, one wonders how much population has increased due to fiat leverage as well - can't really borrow from mother nature too long - (water cuts in Ghawar and horizontal wells in Barnett Shales are two examples)...

(Note: Prof. Wolff has expressed an interest in writing a guest post on this topic -I hope he does so)

(*Edit - The above chart shows how after early 70s we started borrowing heavily (to ostensibly make up for flat real wages in face of cultural pressure to keep up with Joneses).

Below is the % of debt to household net worth by quartile in US in years 1998,2001,2004 and 2007 (**note: survey was taken starting in May 2007, before credit crisis started and near stock market highs)

Here were actual net worth numbers (again, before this latest haircut)

This wealth data is extremely hard to pin down. The above data comes from the Federal Reserve 2007 Consumer Survey (released last month). How many in our country have monetary markers in the red?

Nate, would you happen to have seen a transcript of Prof Wolff's presentation? I hate to sit through 57 minutes, when I can read it in 5 minutes...

It takes energy to address something that is screwed up. The worse it is screwed up, the more energy it takes to address it. This is the case with such a messed up line of thinking that the author of this thesis presents.

Lest us start with the opening sentence. "The current financial meltdown is the result of under-regulated markets built on an ideology of free market capitalism and unlimited economic growth." Now how screwed up is that. He claims that the cause of the meltdown is the lack of government; not too much government; not a predatory, debt based, unstable, unsustainable, unconstitutional monetary system; not flattening of oil production; not deteriorating EROEI; not the consequence of the baby boomers moving out of production, into retirement; not the natural swings of combined economic cycles; not the imbalances caused by government directed credit expansion. And then he blames free market capitalism, like we have have even had free markets for many decades. If a government controlled market place (communism, socialism or fascism) it a superior alternative to freedom, then I suppose the author can demonstrate that where those systems are more deeply imposed on the local population, then there is only economic bliss and not poverty for the many and wealth for the few. But I suppose he does have one thing right. If you don't want economic growth, you should opt for the maximum amount of governmental control of the economy.

In his first sentence, he reveals himself to reject science and to opt for propaganda and expression of his own distorted value system. So moving on to his second sentence, little time is required, because the second sentence is just a rehash of his unsupported, prejudices claimed as fact in his first sentence.

No, I won't pain you by taking the entire article apart, sentence by sentence. I will say that George Orwell might describe much of the remaining verbage as "double speak". What ever happened to the simple expression of ideas?

In his conclusion, the author sweeps us up to Luddite heaven where we can "break the addiction to fossil fuels" and forevermore live happily ever after, perhaps by consuming only air. I don't think he presented any evidence in the body of his thesis that this is possible or that the end of fossil fuel "addiction" (a value judgment word if there ever was one) will bring anything but starvation, disease, exposure, social violence and death. Of course I did not present evidence of this either, but since apparently it is within the parameters of the social science of economics to make assertions based on one's own values, prejudices, misconceptions, and lack of evidence, at least I am on equal footing.

His entire last 30 years of writing backs up this 'opinion piece'. (And again, I don't agree with all of it). I don't think he writes about energy like he did 20 years ago because he sees the leverage in the system (as do I) as changing the way we think about consumption and social relationships - anything else is just plugging holes.

The highest taxes and highest regulated and highest gas priced countries in Europe (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden Finland) also have the highest subjective well being ( Clearly just one measure - but fact that US uses 38 times the primary energy as the Phillipines and has same subjective well-being can be the start of a clue.

Recent events in DC should alert you to fact there is no such thing as free-market capitalism.

Correlation does not mean causation, how many times does this need to be said? Especially on a subject like macroscopic economies, which have millions of factors determining their path, which makes empiric evidence inconclusive.

No such thing as free market? Nate, enter Somalia. Bad example, impoverished country, has some stability issues, but yet manages economic growth without any state. Anarcho-capitalism works, just it takes a ridiculous amount of time for such a doctrine to become prevalent due its young age(theories formulated in 1970s) and academic activity and popular culture influence still at its infancy

I'm well aware of the correlation/causation conflation -and pointed out it was just one measure

There may be other reasons why the scandinavian countries boast high standards of living, high taxes and high social safety nets. Maybe it's the fish. My main point was that a) the piece above was not intended as an empirical one by Costanza so shouldn't be criticized for lack of evidence and b)one would have to convince me of a new definition of 'free' before I would agree to such a thing as free markets. As to fossil fuel addiction, perhaps Bob Costanza reads my long oildrum essays after all.

(I'm beginning to acknowledge a real problem with this website - people that have read the ebbs and flows and new findings over four years stay tuned for new things at the margin - but new readers see comments/posts by old timers who are adding to a body of previous work, without knowing the contextual history that accompanies it, and oft times jump to conclusions, requiring increasingly dreaded repetition. I don't have an easy answer for this. Onwards.

I suppose a bibliography of sorts for main posts the author could tuck in at the end with the admonishment to read further before responding to the main post, particularly if new to the site/topic might help. Extra work, I know...