Arrow et al on Consuming Too Much

Arrow et al on Consuming Too Much - Journal of Economic...

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Are We Consuming Too Much? Kenneth Arrow, Partha Dasgupta, Lawrence Goulder, Gretchen Daily, Paul Ehrlich, Geoffrey Heal, Simon Levin, Karl-Go ¨ran Ma ¨ler, Stephen Schneider, David Starrett and Brian Walker I s humanity’s use of Earth’s resources endangering the economic possibilities open to our descendants? There is wide disagreement on the question. Many people worry about the growth in our use of natural resources over the past century. Some of this increase reFects the higher resource demands from a growing world population. But it also reFects the growth of per capita output and consump- tion. During the twentieth century, world population grew by a factor of four to more than 6 billion, and industrial output increased by a factor of 40. Per capita y Kenneth Arrow is Professor of Economics Emeritus, Stanford University, Stanford, Cali- fornia. Partha Dasgupta is the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College, both in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Lawrence Goulder is Professor and Shuzo Nishihara Chair in Environmental and Resource Economics, Stanford University, Stanford, California. Gretchen Daily is Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California. Paul Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Popu- lation Studies, Stanford University, Stanford, California. Geoffrey Heal is Paul Garrett Professor of Public Policy and Business Responsibility, Columbia Business School, New York, New York. Simon Levin is Moffett Professor of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey. Karl-Go ¨ran Ma ¨ler is Director of the Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden. Stephen Schneider is Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, Califor- nia. David Starrett is Professor of Economics Emeritus, Stanford University, Stanford Cali- fornia. Brian Walker is a Research Scientist, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems Division, Canberra, Australia. Please address all communications to Kenneth J. Arrow at ^ arrow@stanford.edu & . Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 18, Number 3—Summer 2004—Pages 147–172
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consumption in industrialized nations today is far higher than it was 100 years ago, and some would argue that this is irresponsible in the light of its implications for resource demands. In the last 100 years, energy use has increased by a factor of 16, annual Fsh harvesting by a multiple of 35 and carbon and sulfur dioxide emissions by a factor of 10. The application of nitrogen to the terrestrial environment from human use of fertilizers, fossil fuels and leguminous crops is now at least as great as that from all natural sources combined (McNeill, 2000). If we look at speciFc resources and services, such as fresh water, the atmosphere as a carbon sink, and a wide variety of ecosystem services, evidence suggests that continuing growth in their utilization rates is unsustainable (Vitousek, Ehrlich, Ehrlich and Matson, 1986, 1997; Postel, Daily and Ehrlich, 1996).
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Arrow et al on Consuming Too Much - Journal of Economic...

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