If money is the problem, why is it also the solution?

John Peet

A friend recently commented that what we were facing, in NZ and the world, was not a recession, nor a depression. It was a consequence.  A consequence of half a century of unbridled economic growth and environmental and resource depletion, together with development of a culture of greed, culminating in unbelievable levels of wealth for some, and dispossession for many.
Most economists, bankers and politicians did not see the current debt crisis coming. Given the claims of economics to be a predictive science, one might ask, why not? And given that it was the bankers who were largely responsible for the crisis, why is it that –in the US and UK in particular – they are being handed astronomical sums of taxpayers’ money to restart? Clearly, there is something wrong.
A clue to the problem comes from looking at the scientific fundamentals of economic thought, in particular the origins of that branch known as neoclassical economics (NCE).

Continue reading

Posted in John | Comments Off on If money is the problem, why is it also the solution?

The Ecological Footprint – Navigating Tough Decisions in a Resource-Constrained World

The following is a brief account of an address by Dr Mathis Wackernagel, to a meeting at the Law School, University of Canterbury,  Monday 21 July, 2008. The meeting was organised by:

University of Canterbury School of Law & National Centre for Research on Europe

NZ Institute of International Affairs

Engineers for Social Responsibility

Sustainable Otautahi Christchurch

Dr Wackernagel is Executive Director, Global Footprint Network, Oakland, California.

The Ecological Footprint (EF) measures humanity’s demand on nature’s biocapacity (for more details visit www.footprintnetwork.org/faq). It is a management and communications tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what. It represents the area of biologically productive land and water a population (individual, city, country, or all of humanity) requires to provide the resources it consumes and absorb its waste, using prevailing technology.

There are three components to the measured EF of a country, according to the relative amounts of land used for them: built-up land (the smallest component); food, fibre and timber production; and carbon dioxide absorption (to correct for fossil fuel burning)(the fastest-growing component).

Continue reading

Posted in John | Tagged , | Comments Off on The Ecological Footprint – Navigating Tough Decisions in a Resource-Constrained World

A Peaceful, Just and Sustainable New Zealand?

Almost exactly 110 years ago, the eminent Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius wrote a paper on the likelihood of global climate change from the burning of fossil fuels. In that paper, he commented that “… we are evaporating our coal mines into the sky”. In New Zealand, we have known for at least the last 20 years that human-induced accelerated climate change is a distinct probability.

Given the extended period of warning about the issue (not to mention the somewhat more recent, but still extensive warning about depletion of low-cost petroleum reserves – the Peak Oil issue), one could be forgiven for wondering just why it is that, until recently, nothing much of policy significance happened in response, over the last 20 years. Climate change gas emissions have continued to rise, not only from increased fossil fuel use but also from agricultural expansion, especially dairying.

Is this the result of governmental caution, or of not understanding what science is telling us? I think neither. To me, climate change is only one of several major challenges facing NZ and the world. These include environmental, social, economic and cultural dimensions, together with ethical and equity issues within and across generations.

Continue reading

Posted in John | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A Peaceful, Just and Sustainable New Zealand?