Economics is a social science discipline. It is concerned with the production, distribution channels, as well as consumption patterns of goods and services. Robbins (1932) defines modern day economics as the science that studies the behaviors of humans as a relationship between limited means and ends that have different alternative uses.
Ecological economics is a current offshoot of the wider environmental economics. Ecological economists have put mainstream economists on the look out as ecological economics is concerned with the way firms and individuals alike practice their means of production.
Ecological economists’ claim that economic production activities affect what is being called ‘ecological throughput’. These economists are concerned that the current productive processes especially of non-renewable sources of energy should be done at levels within the ecosystems carrying capacities.
Economics is a social science, as thus it does not involve many empirical studies as the biological and physical sciences. Due to this fact, many economic arguments are based on certain theories given the underlying assumptions. This is what makes it possible for one school of thought to claim that within the next 100 years, if we do not make major changes to the physical, economic and social relationships that govern our world development, then we as a human race will exhaust our non renewable resources while at the same time another group feels this is not the case.
Depending on the theory and model, that a study is based on we will definitely have opposing results. The pessimists believe that within the next 100 years we will have exhausted our non-renewable resources. The optimists on the other hand, led by Herman believe that due to the continuing evolutions of new, better, more efficient technologies, then it is possible to push back the environments natural limits until they are no longer limit us.
The optimists’ conclusion seems to be the winning side since history has really showed us the way forward.
ARGUMENTS FOR THE OPTIMISTS:
When Robert Malthus predicted that the world would not be able to feed itself in decades to come since populations grow geometrically and food production arithmetically in his essay “the principles of population” he had ignored a very critical factor(technological progress), that has since ensured that the world has the potential to produce in surplus.
In addition to this, the exploitation of non-renewable resources has widely led to the industrial manufacture of renewable substitutes for these non-renewable resources.
On top of this fact, it is surprising to note that the rate of discovery of new non-renewable resources is higher than the rate at which the same resources are being exploited.
Historically it has been proven that as the stock of non-renewable resources dwindles then the unit price of the same products keep on rising. This thus means that it will always come a time when people will opt for new sources other than utilizing the non-renewable resources.
Regardless of this fact, it is necessary to note that the concerns that are being coined by the pessimists have also some economic implications. It is surprising to note that the rate at which industrial waste is being let out into the environment it is at a higher rate than the ecological assimilative capabilities. This thus means that there might come a time when even with our advanced technologies we shall be facing possible extinction.
In addition to this, it is surprising to note that the rate at which we are harvesting renewable resources it is at a higher rate than the natural rate of these resources regeneration.
Whether we take an optimist or a pessimist approach, we need to realize that our actions are what will determine to a greater percentage our destiny. Thus, it is necessary as Herman Daly noted for us to start thinking and planning for sustainable growth before we start to talk about sustainable development.
Daly, H. Cobb, J. (1989). For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community,
the Environment and a Sustainable Future. Boston: Beacon Press.
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