The Impossible Hamster

I like this (and not just because I am a fan of giant space hamsters, and even miniature giant space hamsters), but I think the focus is wrong.  It is not the size of the economy that maters but rather the environmental footprint of that economy. Typically the size of an economy is positively correlated to its environmental footprint, but that relationship is not set in stone, and if we wish to avoid disaster (be it climate related or some other environmental catastrophe) we need to ensure that the environmental impact of our economy becomes truly sustainable in the not too distant future.

Otherwise we will be faced with one environmental problem after another, each increasing in severity and becoming more difficult to solve, eventually coming across one that we are unable or unwilling to solve, and we will all be much worse off because if it.

So we have two options, try to deal with each environmental problem as they crop up (and our experience with global warming is hardly encouraging), or work on a broader fix that addresses the root cause of environmental degradation. I think we need both.

Neither of these will be easy, but the only alternative I see is a planetary crash.

(h/t Michael Tobis)

3 thoughts on “The Impossible Hamster

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  1. I came here from your response to my comment about economists and growth.

    Economic growth that involves more and faster use of energy, habitat and materials is clearly out and unfortunately the threats we face are not limited to “only” climate change so the fact that mainstream economists may recognise the virtues of cap and trade for carbon is not enough. They must see that all the environmental externalities need to be priced into economic activity – if they were then it should be clear even to them that the kind of growth they and their teachers grew up on has now become uneconomic growth.

    Basically, I agree with you but I think if we called for economic development that does not expand (and would preferably shrink) our environmental shadow, I think we could make progress and all sides would not see the other as some sort of threat.

  2. They must see that all the environmental externalities need to be priced into economic activity

    Sure, but we need to start somewhere. Lets start with carbon, and work from there.

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