The End of Growth

End of Growth book coverPost Carbon Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg's new book The End of Growth (New Society Publishers, 2011) is now in stores.

 

Read draft content from the book here, and join in the discussion on Facebook  and Twitter.

Change ahead sign INTRO: The End of Growth
The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with. The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy...and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it... Read more
   
Coins and charts CHAPTER 1, PART 1: Economics for the Hurried - 1
The first economists were ancient Greek and Indian philosophers, among them Aristotle (382-322 BC)—who discussed the “art” of wealth acquisition and questioned whether property should best be owned privately or by government acting on behalf of the people... Read more
   
South Sea bubble card CHAPTER 1, PART 2: Economics for the Hurried - 2
As money was gradually (and finally completely) de-linked from physical substance (i.e., precious metals), the creation of money became tied to the making of loans by commercial banks. This meant that the supply of money was entirely elastic... Read more
   
Foreclosure sign CHAPTER 2, PART 1: The Sound of Air Escaping
If the previous chapter had been written as a novel, one wouldn't have to read long before concluding that it is a story unlikely to end well. But it is not just a story, it is a description of the system in which our lives and the lives of everyone we care about are embedded... Read more
   
dollars CHAPTER 2, PART 2: Limits to Debt
Let’s step back a moment and look at our situation from a slightly different angle. Take a careful look at Figure 1, the total amount of debt in the U.S. since 1979. The graph breaks the debt down into four categories—household, corporate, financial, and government... Read more
   
falling currency sign CHAPTER 2, PART 3: Stimulus Duds, Bailout Blanks
In response to the financial crisis, governments and central banks have undertaken a series of extraordinary, dramatic measures. In this section we will focus primarily on the U.S. (the bailouts of banks, insurance and car companies, and GSEs; the stimulus packages of 2008... Read more
sad earth sculpture CHAPTER 3, PART 1: Earth’s Limits: Why Growth Won’t Return
The 2008 crude oil price, $147 per barrel, shattered the global economy. The “invisible hand” of economics became the invisible fist, pounding down world economic growth to match the limitations of crude oil production. —Kenneth Deffeyes (petroleum geologist)... Read more
Goldilocks CHAPTER 3, PART 2: How Markets May Respond to Resource Scarcity: The Goldilocks Syndrome
Before examining limits to non-energy resources, it might be helpful to consider how markets respond to resource scarcity... Read more
Water droplet CHAPTER 3, PART 3: Earth’s Limits: Why Growth Won’t Return - Water
There is now widespread concern among experts and responsible agencies that freshwater supplies around the world are being critically overused and degraded, so that water scarcity will increase dramatically as the century wears on... Read more
Crop dusting CHAPTER 3, PART 4: Earth's Limits: Why Growth Won't Return - Food
In addition to water, people need food for their very existence. Thus food is also essential to economic growth...Industrial societies have skirted what would otherwise have been limiting factors to food production... Read more
Super pit CHAPTER 3, PART 5: Earth’s Limits: Why Growth Won’t Return - Metals & Other Minerals
Metals are essential for energy production; for making factory tools, transportation vehicles, and agricultural machinery; and for building the infrastructure of highways, pipes, and power lines that enables modern civilization to function... Read more
Fukishima nuclear disaster CHAPTER 3, PART 6: Earth's Limits: Why Growth Won't Return - Climate Change, Pollution, Accidents, Environmental Decline, and Natural Disasters
Accidents and natural disasters have long histories; therefore it may seem peculiar at first to think that these could now suddenly become significant factors in choking off economic growth. However, two things have changed... Read more
Duck and plastic duck CHAPTER 4, PART 1: Won’t Innovation, Substitution, and Efficiency Keep Us Growing?
While efficiency and substitution are key to our efforts to adapt to resource limits, they are incapable of removing those limits, and are themselves subject to the law of diminishing returns... Read more
Horse drawn fire truck CHAPTER 4, PART 2: Energy Efficiency to the Rescue
The historic correlation between economic growth and increased energy consumption is controversial. To what degree is it possible to decouple the two?... Read more
Galloping horse CHAPTER 4, PART 3: Business Development: The Cavalry’s on the Way
"Many of the big, resource-consuming trends of the near past are soon coming to an end in terms of their ability to attract investment and cover the cost of resources for development, production, and implementation."... Read more
80s office pc CHAPTER 4, PART 4: Fight of our lives: Moore's Law vs. Murphy's Law
The idea that technology will continue to improve dramatically is often supported by reference to Moore’s law...So why hasn’t the same thing happened with energy, transportation, and food production during this period?... Read more
80s office pc CHAPTER 4, PART 5: Specialization and Globalization: Genies at Our Command
Most economists regard division of labor and globalization as strategies that can continue to be expanded far into the future. To think otherwise would be to question the possibility of endless economic growth. But there are reasons to question this belief... Read more
Earth from the moon CHAPTER 4, PART 6: Won’t Innovation, Substitution, and Efficiency Keep Us Growing? - Conclusions
The near-religious belief that economic growth depends not on energy and resources, but solely on increasing innovation, efficiency, trade, and division of labor, can sometimes lead economists to say silly things... Read more
Last piece of pie CHAPTER 5, PART 1: Shrinking Pie: Competition and Relative Growth in a Finite World
Is the central assertion of this book—that world economic growth is over—already disproved? How else to explain China’s continued exuberant expansion, or signs of recovery in the U.S. in 2010?... Read more
Chinese balloons CHAPTER 5, PART 2: The China Bubble: An Export-Led Development Model
The fundamental economic model that China has depended on for the past couple of decades was borrowed from Japan, and consists of producing low-cost export goods to fund investment at home... Read more
One child poster CHAPTER 5, PART 3: The China Bubble: Demographics: Old/Young, Rich/Poor, Urban/Rural
One of China’s leaders’ biggest fears, expressed repeatedly in public pronouncements, is that the nation will grow old before it grows rich (Japan, in contrast, got rich before it grew old)... Read more
chinese dragon CHAPTER 5, PART 4: The China Bubble: Economic Growth’s Last Stand?
China is likely the site of world economic growth’s last stand...When China sputters, the quickening slide of the global economy will be clear and obvious to everyone... Read more
Dollar shock CHAPTER 5, PART 5: The Shrinking Pie: Currency Wars
Since the economic crisis began, stresses in trade between the U.S. and China have led to unfriendly official comments on both sides regarding the other nation’s currency... Read more
US soldier, Afghanistan CHAPTER 5, PART 6: The Shrinking Pie: Post-Growth Geopolitics
As nations compete for currency advantages, they are also eyeing the world’s diminishing resources—fossil fuels...Resource wars have been fought since the dawn of history, but today the competition is entering a new phase.... Read more
Mumbai fishing CHAPTER 5, PART 7: The Shrinking Pie: The End of “Development”?
The priorities of poor nations have just changed. From here on, competing in the global economy will recede in importance; the primary challenge will be to adapt to post-growth world economic conditions and ever-worsening environmental challenges.... Read more
Economic decline chart CHAPTER 6, PART 1: Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress
So far, we are on course for full-force collision. The fundamental problems with our monetary and financial systems have not been addressed, but only papered over... Read more
Economic decline chart CHAPTER 6, PART 2: Haircuts for All . . . or Free Money?
To get past the wall of potential financial-monetary collapse, governments would have to resort to extraordinary emergency measures... Read more
Smiley faces CHAPTER 6, PART 3: Gross National Happiness
One factor that is increasingly being cited as an important economic indicator is happiness. After all, what good is increased production and consumption if the result isn’t increased human satisfaction?... Read more
Piles of books CHAPTER 6, PART 4: Our Problems are Resolvable In Principle
Why, if so many solutions are available, does my "default scenario" for the future look so dreary? Perhaps the suggestion that "Our problems are resolvable in principle" needs to be followed by an "if" clause and a “but” clause.... Read more

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Also, watch our animation Who Killed Economic Growth? narrated by Richard.