Saturday, December 19, 2009

Herman Daly's Ecological Economist View Contrasted with the Traditional Economist View of Lawrence Summers and the World Bank

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent post of the above title. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: In a post “Energy Efficiency, the Jevons Paradox, and the Elephant in the Room: Overpopulation #3,” I contested Podolfsky's claim that my earlier post on that subject treated complex problems ”in terms of simple ideas and, possibly, a single equation exp^t.”

Instead my post merely expressed doubt that enlightened energy efficiency policy by itself could tame the elephant in the room - overpopulation - and did not ignore the Podolfsky's "energy-use gorilla."

Podolfsky responded that ”to call overpopulation THE elephant is at best misleading, and at worst distracting from other very important issues.”

Johnson, responding to all the above, asked if people might agree with this viewpoint:

“Even though population numbers rarely follow pure exponential behavior for very long, they have the tendency towards exponential growth, and the same goes for energy consumption by technological societies in the absence of limitations on energy usage, as clearly shown in Limits to Growth [Meadows et al. (1972)].”

I agree with Johnson's viewpoint, but Lawrence Summers [current Director of the White House's National Economic Council and former chief economist at the World Bank] probably does not, having expressed the opinion that Meadows et al. (1992)] was “worthless,” and that their (and Daly's) diagram of the economic system as part of and within the ecosystem was “not the right way to look at it.”

Summers' and the World Bank's viewpoint is contrasted with that of Daly's in passages quoted at length from pages 4-10 of the “Introduction” of Beyond Growth [Daly (1997].

To access the complete 44 kB post please click on


Hake, R.R. 2009. “Energy Efficiency, the Jevons Paradox, and the Elephant in the Room: Overpopulation #4,” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 20 Oct 2009 14:25:15 -0700 to AERA-L, Net-Gold, PhysLrnR, & Physoc.

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