11th Symposium of the Humboldt Economics Forum: Growth and/or Sustainability!? – Part III

<<< Read Part I

<<< Read Part II

by Renard Teipelke

Part III

The dilemma between growth and sustainability was supposed to be ‘solved’ by the last panel on which Professor Meyer (University of Osnabrück) underscored that all the well-intentioned objectives of a ecologically and socially more friendly development needs to be made the central element of the current political agenda. Oddly enough for economists, Professor Meyer and Professor Burda (Humboldt University Berlin) saw the state as the sole capable actor to force market players into the right direction (a.k.a. ‘offer the right incentives’ – since any notion of socialist methods is to be avoided).

Luckily for the whole symposium, natural science Professor Ibisch (University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde) advocated an open discourse on shrinkage and warned of the unpredictable non-linearity that results from the collapse of excessively growing populations. In the face of this possibility, it is all about being a model for other nations – a standpoint shared by Dorothea Steiner (member of the German parliament for the Green Party). We need an ‘agenda of less’ instead of the common growth mantra. For Dorothea Steiner, this is not a luxury question but also economically necessary since developing countries will soon outperform Western countries even in the sustainability sector.

In the end, what can we take home from this conference? Growth is not an end in itself. Sustainability is economically necessary and will be even more beneficial for us. At the same time, society needs to accept the idea and necessity of shrinkage which comes along with a certain kind of abstinence. Developing countries, in the words of Professor Burda, “still want to enjoy the party Western countries have enjoyed for the last 100 years,” which means that our hindsight after years of unsustainable growth has to be communicated to other actors. Without appearing arrogant, we should try to advocate sustainable (and for highly industrialized countries zero) growth if we want to mitigate some of the highly probable economic, ecological, and social deteriorations that will go hand in hand with the present style of exploiting the foundations of current and future generations. Thus, it might not be a coincidence that the winning student essay of the symposium was ironically titled “Children held liable for their parents.”

<<< Read Part I

<<< Read Part II

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2 Responses to 11th Symposium of the Humboldt Economics Forum: Growth and/or Sustainability!? – Part III

  1. Pingback: 11th Symposium of the Humboldt Economics Forum: Growth and/or Sustainability!? – Part I | Place Management & Branding

  2. Pingback: 11th Symposium of the Humboldt Economics Forum: Growth and/or Sustainability!? – Part II | Place Management & Branding

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