Policies for Prosperous Descent

Two Choices-E.C.Odum 2005 http://www.onb.it/writable/editoriale/Odum_1_ 2005_A%20prosperous%20way%20down.pdf

“Human society can adapt to diminishing resources in ways analogous to ecosystems. To sustain standards of living, populations will have to decrease. People will either adapt because of foresight or will be forced to because of the declining resources. Some people can migrate to areas where the cycle is in a different phase. For example, in rural areas of developed countries where farming was abandoned in earlier centuries, enough soil and forest restoration has occurred to support rural life again. It will be efficient to use up assets that no longer can be supported. For example, after some population decrease, materials from excess housing can be used to maintain the rest. New specialties concerned with decrease may develop such as “downsizing business management,” and these can run for a small profit. However, choices for coming down that involve environment should be evaluated for public benefit, just as with alternatives for expansion, selecting those that sustain the most real wealth. Already we have an increase in the number of small businesses that restore and resell abandoned household appliances. More old houses are being restored. Garage sales are everywhere” (Odum & Odum, 2001, p. 86).

To form public policy for maximum benefit, select alternatives that maximize useful empower. By restating Lotka’s principle in empower units we recognize that beneficial organization increases intake emergy (first priority) and its efficient use (second priority) on all scales (not just maximizing levels with more energy; not maximizing some levels at the expense of others) (Odum, 1998).

Tranformities provide a general policy principle, which is: Do not use high-quality products for low-quality purposes (Odum & Odum, 2001, p. 69).

Maximizing jobs and the economy requires maximizing the symbiosis of the economy with the environment and its resources (Odum, 1995, p. 367).

More policies for Transition can be found here.

Policies for Descent (Odum, PWD draft, 1987):

  • Change world attitudes to regard coming down as progress towards a prosperous future
  • Fit the economy and the population to declining resource availability; don’t assume that new technology will find new resources
  • Use resources to make wealth; don’t sell them to make money
  • A newly developed energy source may be one already contributing to the economy in environmental work/services
  • “Most of the emergy from the economy is in the human services (which can be estimated from the costs using the emergy/money ratio= 1 E12 sej/$). Human support has very high energy requirment: 10 to100 million solar emcalories per calorie of human work. Net emergy includes these very high requirements and gets no net emergy for solar technology. Net energy finds human services as negligible calories and leaves them out. Net energy violates the energy hierarchy law by counting energies on different scales as doing equivalent work” (Odum, 2001)
  • Using electricity for purposes that could use fuel directly, such as electric home heat, is a waste
  • Circulating more money for high finance, luxury or gambling will not accelerate resource use, economic growth, or generate useful products. Circulation without production is expenditure without value. Finance for profit creates diminished productivity as industries become outdated and lose to competitors overseas
  • Market prices are not a fair basis for international trade. Human services from less developed nations are worth more in Emergy terms than is paid for them. Raw products contribute 5 to 50 times more to urban centers than is received for them
  • Cities will decentralize, with less cars and building heights. More decisions will be made at state and local levels rather than nationally. Industries will decentralize. Heavy industries will be smaller and spread world-wide. Job hierarchies will shrink with fewer jobs at the top and middle. Less advertising will be needed. Accidents and disruptions will increase. Natural materials will supplant synthetics, and plastics will be reused
  • Extended family/cohousing will revive, and active transport will expand
  • Priorities for community health over individual health will increase, mental health may improve, and healthcare will decentralize
  • If one sector of the economy is neglected or overemphasized, the economy suffers
  • International exchanges include pollution, crime, and drugs; damages can be measured with Emergy
  • Use the new measure of wealth, EMergy, not money, to evaluate resource contributions of the economy
  • Do not tax, embargo, or otherwise inhibit free use of fuels; fuels are an amplifier that contributes many multiples more to economic wealth than they cost (an exception would be wasteful or luxury uses)
  • Capitalism and profit are functions of surplus energy and a growth economy;  banks will acquire different roles to fund efficient, smaller, lower energy enterprises
  • Borrowing fails when neither production nor markets can expand; borrowing and high interest rates may become regarded as usury again. Federal deficit financing will result in inflation
  • Inflation is eliminated when the money circulating is held in constant ratio to the resources being processed
  • When limited resources cause economic leveling, interest rates may be high to prevent borrowing that can’t be repaid for lack of growth
  • Policies favor conservation, efficiency, and maintaining existing patterns, with less support for immigration, interstate highways, and oil company depletion allowances
  • Growth stocks will decline and stocks of companies emphasizing reorganization and contraction of society (remodeling, repair, and adapting to rural living) will rise
  • Substitute communication for transportation
  • For a competitive economy, educate all children to develop their abilities to use information, communication, and technology and to adapt to changing conditions
  • Most advances in technology are less efficient and need more resources to use. Technology typically helps use entrain more energy
  • A post-industrial, all-service economy is not possible because services, too, depend on resources, agricultural, and industrial production. We can’t all survive by taking in each others’ laundry
  • A post-industrial information economy requires production elsewhere. We cannot repeal the dependence of all economies on resources; we can just rearrange where we use the resources
  • Use imported resources first, and local sources second to save valuable storages of local resources
  • Develop international partnerships and peace by balancing EMergy of exchanges between nations, including trade, migrating people, foreign aid, loans, and culture
  • Do not attempt to exert military influence beyond the power of the country’s resources
  • Require calculations of net Emergy benefit to justify public projects
  • Eliminate the acceptability of waste and replace it with the use of byproducts; reuse or recycle them to nature’s earth processes but don’t store in dumps and landfills. Dispersal is better than incineration or accumulation. There is no away to throw things anymore
  • Rebuild nature’s natural capital of wetlands, forests, soils, and water
  • Filter all waste waters from city sewage, street runoff, and agricultural runoff through nature’s filters, the wetland ecosystems
  • In descent, keep standards of living by allowing leveling of population in proportion to decline in resource use
  • During economic cutbacks reduce all salaries and wages and not laying by people off
  • Reduce minimum wages for teenagers and older workers to support everyone in productive work; full employment maximizes the economy. Maximum wage reforms limit inequities
  • Milo Winter, 1919 the Ant and the Grasshopper Project Gutenberg

    Reduce the yield per acre of agriculture, cutting costs and using more land. Preserve gene pools. Recycling of nutrients will supplant fertilizers. Absorb urban unemployment using tax incentives in a new move to the land, where more self-sufficiency allows lower wages. Federal government could sponsor new homesteading

  • Abandon the non-utilitarian uses of power in recreation, big cars, and power boats
  • The water cycle organizes the landscape; using wastewater on agriculture can be good recycling. Wetlands are nature’s kidneys
  • In the short term, increased CO2 will create more intense extremes in weather; in the longer term, the decline in world fuel consumption will reduce the effects of increased CO2
  • Information is cheaper to copy than to make from scratch. Information depreciates. Developing shared information requires large resources. Art and literature are powerful amplifiers. Information use increases as growth stops, but declining resources support less information
  • Education may shift to new life themes, smaller schools with less technology and big sports, and a curriculum thread stressing systems thinking, while storing society’s information and restoring its role for selection and testing of information
  • Religions may redevelop ethics and values of service, sacrifice, and care of the earth; teaching systems understanding of the context of society within nature
  • Encourage every person’s initiatives on this new frontier of organizing a lower energy world
  • As first priority each person should include work for the vitality of the public economy. Do not accept the doctrine that marketplace competition for individual  gain alone can generate public welfare

Later Refinements; Policies for Prosperous Descent (Odum, 2007, p. 388):

  • Maximize empower through environmental production and efficient use
  • Endorse lifestyles that limit reproduction
  • Control population to keep empower per person from decreasing
  • Downsize by reducing salaries rather than discharging employees
  • Place an upper limit on individual incomes
  • Redefine progress as adaptation to earth restoration
  • Restore natural capital and associated environmental production
  • Restore environmental reserves, forests, fisheries
  • Use ecological engineering self-design for environmental-economic interfaces
  • Use agricultural varieties that need less input
  • Limit the power of private cars
  • Plan for more population moving from cities to agricultural towns
  • Decentralize organizational hierarchy
  • Select hierarchically organized roads and railroads for maintenance
  • Direct electric power for useful information processing and sharing
  • Select and consolidate information for libraries
  • Reinforce respect for polycultural pluralism
  • Reduce money circulation to sustain emergy/money ratio
  • Replace plastic discard packaging with reuse-recycle containers
  • Plan for annual reduction in budgets
  • Select for maintenance structures with low depreciation rates
  • Share free information for unified cooperation
  • Balance energy trade equity to replace free exploitation
  • Set a priority for ecological net production over consumption
  • Use capital investment for downsizing
  • Redefine medical ethics that interfere with genetic selection
  • Reuse or recycle according to transformity

Our civilization can thrive in a future where we live with less