The End of Growth

Richard Heinberg lays out what policy makers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth's budget of energy and resources.

| April 2013

The End of Growth

Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers

The End of Growth (New Society Publishers, 2011) proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits. Richard Heinberg's latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, explaining how and why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes.  

Post-Growth Economics 

The past three decades, and especially the past three years, have seen an explosion of discussion about alternative ways of thinking about economics. There are now at least a score of think tanks, institutes, and publications advocating fundamentally revising economic theory in view of ecological limits. Many alt-economics theorists question either the possibility or advisability of endless growth.

The fraternity of conventional economists appears to be highly resistant to these sorts of challenging new ideas. Governments everywhere accept unquestioningly the existing growth based economic paradigm, and this confers on mainstream economists a sense of power and success that makes them highly averse to self-examination and change. Therefore the likelihood of alternative economic ideas being adopted anytime soon on a grand scale would seem vanishingly small. Nevertheless, alternative thinking is still useful, because as growth ends the managers of the economy will sooner or later be forced to try other approaches, and it will be extremely important to have conceptual tools lying around that, in a crisis, could be quickly grasped and put to use.

As noted in Chapter 1, conventional economics starts with certain basic premises that are clearly, unequivocally incorrect: that the environment is a subset of the economy; that resources are infinitely substitutable; and that growth in population and consumption can continue forever.In conventional economics, natural resources like fossil fuels are treated as expendable income, when in fact they should be treated as capital, since they are subject to depletion. As many alternative economists have pointed out, if economics is to stop steering society into the ditch it has to start by reexamining these assumptions.

The following four fundamental principles must be established at the core of economic theory if economics is to have any relevance in the future: