The emergence of steady state economies. What does it mean?

  • A steady state economy has stable levels of population growth with birth and death rates that are relatively even, and stable levels of energy and resource consumption where material throughput does not exceed ecological limits. A steady state economy is therefore one which meets all the requirements of sustainability by avoiding excessive fluctuations in population and resource demand. It is believed that all nations will inevitably transition to a steady state either sooner by design or later by disaster.
  • New Zealand has been the focus of attention in terms of adopting a steady state economy due to its geographic isolation and relatively small market appeal for energy suppliers that could raise significant energy security issues. It is believed that unless New Zealand adapts its economic structure by design to a more economically, socially and ecologically sustainable system they might be forced to increase foreign debt to maintain economic and social norms of a growth economy.

If a system can be designed that meets the needs of sustainability at current environmental conditions then social welfare could plateau or even increase in time. Continuing with the status quo is highly likely to lead to resource depletion and severe damage to ecological systems. Under this scenario the system provides little social well-being and can thus be considered ‘steady state by disaster’.

Government and industry may wish to use New Zealand’s blueprint to help consider how and if steady state economies could be established in the UK.

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