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Work in a World Without Growth

WORK IN A WORLD WITHOUT GROWTH

A fixation with growth in economics has seen GDP increase in proportion to environmental damage. As planetary limits draw ever closer and are even being surpassed, such a model cannot be sustained. Riccardo Mastini explains how a job guarantee could open up the way to a sustainable economic model.

Since the dawn of capitalism, market economies have placed a high emphasis on labour productivity. Continuous improvements in technology geared towards productivity increases lead to more output being produced for a given amount of labour. But crucially these advances also mean that fewer people are needed to produce the same amount of goods and services each year. As long as the economy expands fast enough to offset increases in labour productivity there is no problem. But if the economy does not grow, people lose their jobs.

Economic growth has been necessary within this system just to prevent mass unemployment. Communities and the politicians that represent them celebrate the construction of a new factory not so much for the increase in supply of some needed product, but because of the jobs it creates. In advanced economies, the shortage of employment has become more pressing than the shortage of products. Basically, we produce goods and services mostly to keep people employed rather than to cater for their needs.

But what if economic growth were to slow down and, eventually, come to a halt in the near future? More than half a century of ‘growth propaganda’ supporting the dogma that pursuing never-ending growth is plausible and desirable may make this new prospect shocking for some. However, there is now overwhelming evidence that  decoupling GDP growth from increases in natural resource and energy use is impossible. And our plundering of Earth’s bounty has already reached unsustainable levels with the overshot of several planetary boundaries.

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Megadams Not Clean or Green, Says Expert

Megadams Not Clean or Green, Says Expert

Forty years of research show hydro dams create environmental damage, says David Schindler.

Politicians who describe dams as “clean energy projects” are talking “nonsense” and rejecting decades of science, says David Schindler, a leading water ecologist.

Former premier Christy Clark often touted the Site C dam as a “clean energy project” and Premier John Horgan has adopted the same term.

But that’s not the story told by science, Schindler told The Tyee in a wide-ranging interview.

In fact studies done by federal scientists identified dams as technological giants with lasting ecological footprints almost 40 years ago, he said.

Dam construction and the resulting flooding produces significant volumes of greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian dams have strangled river systems, flooded forests, blocked fish movement, increased methylmercury pollution, unsettled entire communities and repeatedly violated treaty rights.

Schindler, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and an internationally honoured expert on lakes and rivers, pointed to the increased mercury levels as a health and environmental risk. “All reservoirs that have been studied have had mercury in fish increase several-fold after a river is dammed,” he said.

“How can any of those impacts be regarded as green or clean?”

The Site C dam is no exception. A report by the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance found the Site C project, which faced a federal-provincial Joint Review Panel in 2014, “has more significant negative environmental effects than any other project ever reviewed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (including oilsands projects).”

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