Economics in a Full World

Economics in a Full World by Herman E Daly Discusses Limitless Human Consumption in a Limited Environment

Economics in a Full World by Herman E Daly discusses limitless human consumption in a limited environment and its future effect on the economy and vice versa. Developing an economy that can be sustained within the finite biosphere requires new ways of thinking. The global economy is now so large that society can no longer safely pretend it operates within a limitless ecosystem. Developing an economy that can be sustained within the finite biosphere requires new ways of thinking.

Herman E. Daly discusses how humankind's consumption of resources is somewhat akin to sand flowing through an hourglass that cannot be flipped over. We have a virtually unlimited supply of energy from the sun, but we cannot control the rate of its input. In contrast, we have a finite supply of fossil fuels and minerals, but we can increase or decrease our consumption rate. If we use those resources at a high rate, we in essence borrow from the supply rightly belonging to future generations and accumulate more wastes in the environment. Such activity is not sustainable in the long run.

Some economists express these facts in terms of physical laws. They argue that this lack of sustainability is predicted by the first two laws of thermodynamics, namely that energy is conserved (finite) and that systems naturally go from order to disorder (from low to high entropy). Humans survive and make things by sucking useful (low-entropy) resources—fossil fuels and concentrated minerals—from the environment and converting them into useless (high-entropy) wastes. The mass of wastes continuously increases (second law) until at some point all the fuel is converted to useless detritus.

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