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May 29, 2017
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The annual Avenue of Flags May 29 at RP Community Center SSU commencement; one for the history books Problem reaching AT&T last weekend? During Rohnert Park City Council meeting protestors unexpectedly take center stage Vehicle pursuit ends with arrest of 14-year-old Ex RP public safety officer pleads no contest to sex offenses Rancho 2017 top 20 Great turnout for RPPSOA pancake breakfast to help Project Grad Gabriella stole the show Town Hall meeting Sheriff's office releases details on SSU officer involved shooting A true celebration of ‘Cinco de Mayo’ Project Grad help in full swing Richard Crane Elementary School Suspect arrested after evading a Cotati Peace Officer Emiri Nomura awarded scholarship Shopping carts ran amok in Cotati last Saturday Ricardo Oliva receives ‘Coach of the year’ for the Northern District Sonoma State University equestrians jump with joy on their way to Kentucky Double Decker Lanes hosts the QubicaAMF Boys and Girl Club employee arrested for child endangerment Armed suspect arrested after resistance RP girl accosted while walking to school And they're off. . . Saddle Up and Ride Community quickly rallies for Project Grad Cotati opposes SB 618 Rohnert Park City Council to host Town Hall meeting on May 3 Graton Tribe makes good on payments Auto burglar arrested by Cotati Police A bit of Uganda A mission to help RP to replace old trees Engineering with Legos at the Ray Miller Community room Bunkers at Foxtail set for repairs RP man arrested for attempted murder CRPUSD OKs two contracts Credo gets used to new digs at SMV Golf Course Drive Crossing concerns may delay SMART train ‘Quiet Zones’ Man busted for DUI after crashing into tree in RP New hands bring subtle changes to Sharing of the Green fundraiser A traditional dance of Japan Shameful time in history RP rejects new self-storage facilities Survey Says: Rohnert Park Residents Love City, but not Traffic Council amends UDSP Body of missing woman found RAFD names part-time fire chief KRCB garners huge windfall from FCC auction Missing Penngrove woman's body found in Marin County Bunfest was hopping with bunny lovers Nonn expected to sue CRPUSD Credo crew marches to new home Cotati delays vote on Valparaiso The Voice enters into 25th year Cotati-reviews midyear budget Two RP Parks getting upgrades A new look for SSU gym RP man reported missing Padre Town Center changes hands Sonoma County to take a look at immigration issue Bomb scare closes RCHS Local Tech High student chosen for Scholars program RP to conduct survey Man arrested after high-speed chase through 3 cities RP makes changes to city code for ADUs Man gets 11 years in prison for RP knife attack Man who led chase into SF caught Treasurer for Rancho Cotate High Project Grad Arrested for Embezzlement A crab feast at Community Center Taking a pie in her grill RP man busted for possession of meth Cotati OKs water, sewer rate study RP votes to regulate vaping CRPUSD schools now a safe haven for immigrant students RP adds seven to public safety Cotati votes to host shopping cart race Man arrested for attempted murder Defibrillators proving to be invaluable assets Artists ready for art show at library Reilani Peleti Corrections Suspected explosive device at RCHS Seventh-graders in local schools to be taught CPR Voice issues apology to school board, superintendent RP man arrested on drug possession charges

Is economic growth possible? Desirable? Sustainable?

By:
January 28, 2010

In the arena of public policy, economic growth is commonly offered as the solution to all problems. A growing economy is essential for producing jobs and income, wealth and tax revenues, and all the materials and goods essential for daily life. Or so it is believed.

But what is “economic growth”? Is it in fact essential, desirable, sustainable?

Economy activity, in the form of the flow of materials and energy through the system, is measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is seen as the measure of economic health. All economic activity, whether “good” or “bad,” is lumped together into one bottom line. Activities that may be personally, socially, or environmentally damaging can be good for the GDP because they produce economic activity and therefore increase the GDP.

A terminal illness, an oil spill that is devastating to the environment and to local communities, or a major accident, are “good” for the GDP because they involve economic activity - they cost money to clear up.

This leads to more fundamental questions: Is it the role of the “ecosphere” (the ecological systems of the planet) to “feed” with energy and materials, the ever-growing needs of the burgeoning human economy? Or is the “econosphere” (the sphere of human economic activity) part of and dependent upon the broader global “ecosphere” and subservient to its inherent design principles?

Conventional wisdom assumes the former to be true, modern science has determined the latter to be so.

All the sources upon which our production-oriented economy are based are ultimately natural resources - plants, animals, water, soil, timber, rock, metals, fossil fuels, solar and wind energy, and so on.

The Earth’s ecosystems have also become the “sinks” for polluting by-products of human activity. In nature, everything is recycled and becomes food for something else. We talk of throwing things “away,” but really, there is no “away.”

Our land, water, and air are becoming overwhelmed as the “sinks” for our pollution as well as, often, depleted sources for the materials and energy we take from them.

Understanding the human economy is dependent upon the Earth’s natural systems makes clear the continued draw-down of natural resources and degradation of “sinks” in the pursuit of economic growth eventually involves liquidation of the natural “capital” upon which the economy depends.

The further growth of economic throughput increases the long-term “costs” of future economic activity; the costs outweigh the benefits. Can we afford continuing economic growth on a finite planet?

Using ecological systems as a model for long-term sustainability, studies of ecological succession suggest an answer. Ecological succession is the process by which natural systems reestablish maturity and stability after disturbance, such as a fire or flood. Initially, production is high and fast as nature works to fill the void. As the ecosystem matures - for example, as it “succeeds” from grass to brush to forest - production slows down and the emphasis is on maintenance and renewal. Economic theory lags behind ecological succession. Modern developed economies (high throughput economies) must also mature; they must “succeed” from production-orientation to maintenance-orientation in order to become sustainable.

Yet deeper questions remain: Why fret over “growth” at all? What is the purpose of economic throughput? What satisfactions do we seek from it? Economic activity is a means to an end, the end being human welfare. Economic activity is the cost of that welfare. As economist Kenneth Boulding suggested, we eat in order to achieve the state of being well-fed. Moving our jaws is the “cost” of getting there. We would be mistaken to focus our attention on the act of chewing as the desired end-state when it is simply “the price we pay” to become fed.

Yet modern economics focuses on the act of production-consumption, not on the well-being derived from it. We measure what is consumed, not the level of satisfaction achieved. We are maximizing chewing in the hope of becoming well-fed. What would an economic system look like if it were based on the end rather than on the means?

These and similar questions will be addressed by economist Bruce Macpherson and ecologist Steve Barnhart at an event co-sponsored by Cotati Creek Critters and the Leadership Institute for Ecology & the Economy Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Ray Miller Community Center, 216 E. School St. in Cotati. Both speakers have taught at Santa Rosa Junior College for many years and have collaborated on research and teaching on these challenging issues. For information, contact jenny@creeks.cotati.info or 792-4422.