Sustainability politics: The consequences of rebounds Vol. 1

Alcott, Blake (2013) Sustainability politics: The consequences of rebounds Vol. 1. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

To achieve a sustainable or steady-state economy a society must be able to hold
negative environmental impacts, whether defined as resource depletion or as
pollution, to desired maxima. That is, it must control throughput defined as resource
inputs plus low-value outputs. This can be done directly through capping input
substances or approached indirectly through various sustainability paths, fruitfully
classified into three groups: control of the number of people, control of the quantity
of goods and services per person, and increasing the ratio of goods and services
per unit of either resource consumption or pollution. This taxonomy coincides with
the formula I = PAT.
It is found that each indirect path suffers from rebounds: whatever inputs are left
temporarily fallow after reducing population, and/or the affluence of some people,
and/or the technological ratio of inputs to economic output, are merely consumed to
support more people, raise the affluence of others, and/or increase the amount of
economic output. In order however to decrease throughput to sustainable levels –
solving the primary problem of human ecology, that of the scale of the human
economy in relation to biophysical limits – we needn’t measure exact levels of
rebound: directly imposing caps achieves this goal. Once overall caps are in place,
population, affluence and efficiency will find their levels decentrally and
democratically.
Social problems to be addressed in a lower-throughput economy concern the just
distribution of rights to consume or pollute common property, unemployment that
can result from economic shrinkage, and in general just distribution of the pie when
the pie is getting smaller. It is suggested that environmental research should focus
on winning democratic majorities for sustainability and identifying the ethical,
aesthetic and quality-of-life benefits of a smaller economy. Only worldwide political
action – not that of individuals, firms or even countries – is likely to achieve
sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Published
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2014 10:31
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2014 10:33
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/48148
DOI:

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