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10. Neva Goodwin - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: World on the Edge

For the past two and a half centuries industrializing societies have enjoyed a trend in which technology, engineering, and resource discoveries steadily reduced the cost of energy and materials. As the costs of these inputs declined, the relative value of labor rose. This trend is often referred to as rising labor productivity: an hour of labor input was able to produce more and more output, measured both in bulk terms and in dollar value. There are strong reasons to believe that this trend is now due to be reversed: the price of energy and raw materials will begin to rise against the price of labor. This paper will consider a variety of ways that societies and individuals could respond to a decline in labor productivity. Hoped-for reductions in labor hours may be possible only for those who are willing to reduce their consumption of many energy- and materials-intensive products. The paper will especially consider the possible effects on, and responses of, women and family groups. Neva Goodwin is Co-director of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University, where she is active in a variety of attempts to systematize and institutionalize an economic theory -- "contextual economics" -- that will have more relevance to contemporary real world concerns than does the dominant economic paradigm. Dr. Goodwin has edited more than a dozen books, and is the lead author of two introductory textbooks, Microeconomics in Context and Macroeconomics in Context. Over the past decade Dr. Goodwin led the creation of a digital "social science library" called Frontier Thinking in Sustainable Development and Human Well- Being which contains nearly 10,000 full bibliographic references and which is being distributed widely in 137 developing and transitional countries. She is on the boards of Ceres and Winrock International, and is co-chair of the board of the New Economics Institute. Dr. Goodwin is involved with efforts to motivate business to recognize social and ecological health as significant, long-term corporate goals. She seeks ways to translate an understanding of the economy in its full social and ecological contexts into action and policy. She also seeks a deeper theoretic understanding from exposure to on-the-ground experiments in alternative socio- economic institutional design. The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution's Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet hosted a symposium on March 1, 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launching of Limits to Growth, the first report to the Club of Rome published in 1972. This book was one of the earliest scholarly works to recognize that the world was fast approaching its sustainable limits. Forty years later, the planet continues to face many of the same economic, social, and environmental challenges as when the book was first published. The morning session focused on the lessons of Limits to Growth. The afternoon session addressed the difficult challenges of preserving biodiversity, adjusting to a changing climate, and solving the societal issues now facing the planet. The symposium ended with a thought-provoking panel discussion among the speakers on future steps for building a sustainable planet.
Length: 36:38


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