Daly et al-- Consuming Too Much for what

Daly et al-- Consuming Too Much for what - Are We Consuming...

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Are We Consuming Too Much—for What? HERMAN E. DALY, BRIAN CZECH,† DAVID L. TRAUGER,‡ WILLIAM E. REES, § MANSI GROVER, TRACY DOBSON,†† AND STEPHEN C. TROMBULAK‡‡ School of Public Affairs, Van Munching Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-1821, U.S.A., email hdaly@umd.edu †Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, National Capital Region, Alexandria Center, 1021 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, U.S.A. ‡Natural Resources Program, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, National Capital Region, Alexandria Center, 1021 Prince Street, Room 312, Alexandria, VA 22314, U.S.A. § University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada ††Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 10C Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824-1222, U.S.A. ‡‡Biology and Environmental Studies, Department of Biology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, U.S.A. Introduction In a provocative paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives , 11 coauthors, all distinguished economists and ecologists (Arrow et al. 2004), asked in their title, “Are We Consuming Too Much?” The paper’s relevance to conservation biology was soon highlighted in a summary in Conservation in Practice (Christensen 2005), which in turn engendered a response by several readers ( Conservation in Practice , vol. 6, no. 3). No doubt the original article would have elicited comments too, but it is the policy of the Journal of Economic Per- spectives not to publish comments. No matter, when 11 leading scholars jointly pronounce on such an important question it acquires the air of a manifesto and demands that the larger scientific community take a close look at their argument—they deserve no less. The Question: Scale versus Allocation We do so here, by focusing the question a bit. We begin by asking, Are we consuming too much for the rest of the planet? In other words, is the scale of the human econ- omy so large relative to the containing biosphere that it displaces biospheric functions that are at the margin more important than the extra production and consumption? One index of the extent to which this might be the case is a decline in biodiversity. We do not argue that there must never be a reduction in biodiversity—only that marginal costs of increasing the human scale of population and Paper submitted June 21, 2006; revised manuscript accepted January 25, 2007. per capita resource consumption are rising, whereas the marginal benefits of extra production and population are falling. If the costs are not already growing faster than the benefits of scale increase, we believe that they soon will be. Neoclassical economics does not recognize any prob-
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Daly et al-- Consuming Too Much for what - Are We Consuming...

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