Ecological Truth: Avoiding an Economic Bubble

Lester R. Brown, global environmental sustainability expert, outlines his Plan B, a radical approach to economic truth and avoiding an economic bubble.


| February/March 2004



202-090-01

Brown explains the shifts in government spending, tax policies and subsidies that we can, and must, make in order to create an environmentally sustainable eco-economy that serves the basic needs of all citizens and respects the Earth's limited natural resources.


Illustration courtesy Lester R. Brown

In our last issue, in his article, "Growing...Growing... Gone?", global environmental sustainability expert Lester R. Brown outlined the huge environmental challenges our civilization faces. Now be presents the good news, spelling out how citizens around the world can quickly mobilize to move us beyond "business as usual" and implement what he calls "Plan B. " Brown explains the shifts in government spending, tax policies and subsidies that we can, and must, make in order to create an environmentally sustainable eco-economy that serves the basic needs of all citizens and respects the Earth's limited natural resources.

— MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Plan B is my proposal for a massive mobilization to deflate our environmental "bubble" economy — one in which economic output is artificially inflated by overconsumption of the Earth's natural resources — before it reaches the bursting point. Keeping the global economic bubble from bursting will require an unprecedented degree of international cooperation and ecological truth to stabilize population, climate, water tables and soils — and at wartime speed. In both scale and urgency, the effort required is comparable to U.S. mobilization during World War II.

Our hope now is rapid systemic change based on market signals that tell the ecological truth. This means restructuring the tax system by lowering income taxes and raising taxes on environmentally destructive activities, such as burning fossil fuels, to incorporate the ecological costs. Unless we can create a market that reflects reality, we will continue making faulty decisions as consumers, corporate planners and government policymakers. Ill-informed economic decisions and the economic distortions they create will lead to economic decline.

Plan B is the only viable option simply because Plan A, which is continuing with business as usual, offers an unacceptable outcome — continued environmental degradation and a bursting of the economic bubble. The warning signals are coming more frequently: collapsing fisheries, melting glaciers and falling water tables. So far the wake-up calls have been local, but soon, they could become global. For instance, massive imports of grain by China and the rise in food prices that likely would follow could awaken us from our lethargy. But time is running out. Bubble economies, which by definition are artificially inflated, cannot continue indefinitely. Our demands on the Earth exceed its regenerative capacity by a wider margin with each passing day.

Stabilizing world population at about 7.5 billion is central to avoiding economic breakdown in countries with large projected population increases that already are over-consuming their natural capital assets. Some 36 countries in Europe and Japan have essentially stabilized their populations, but the challenge now is to create the economic and social conditions that will lead to population stability in all countries. The keys here are extending primary education to all children, providing vaccinations and basic health care, and offering reproductive health care and family planning services in all countries.

li
8/28/2007 2:07:44 AM

good !






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