In it Rees bluntly makes the point that: “Ensuring an economically secure and ecologically stable environment for all requires:
1. that rich nations consume less to free up the ecological space needed for justifiable consumption increases in poorer countries (BCSD 1993; Moore and Rees 2013); and
2. that the world implement a universal population management plan designed to reduce the total human population to a level that can be supported indefinitely at a more-than-satisfactory average material standard. This is what it means to ‘live sustainably within the means of nature’ (Rees 2014).”
On the apparent impossibility of amassing the political will necessary, Rees states” ” The problem is that what is politically feasible is often ecologically irrelevant. Effective sustainability policy must be consistent with available scientific evidence; ‘alternative facts’ are mere self-delusion. Failure to implement a global sustainability plan that addresses excess consumption and over-population while ensuring greater social equity may well be fatal to the human prospect. Indeed, adherence to any variant of the status quo promises a future of uncontrollable climate change, plummeting biodiversity, civil disorder, geopolitical turmoil and resource wars.”
Rees’ paper meshes well with one by Samuel Alexander on the possibilities, ways and means of degrowth. From it: “We used to live on a planet that was relatively empty of humans; today it is full to overflowing, with more people consuming more resources. We would need one and a half Earths to sustain the existing economy into the future. Every year this ecological overshoot continues, the foundations of our existence, and that of other species, are undermined.”
Alexander supports degrowth: “Degrowth, by contrast, would involve embracing what has been termed the “simpler way” – producing and consuming less.
This would be a way of life based on modest material and energy needs but nevertheless rich in other dimensions – a life of frugal abundance. It is about creating an economy based on sufficiency, knowing how much is enough to live well, and discovering that enough is plenty.
We would tend to reduce our working hours in the formal economy in exchange for more home-production and leisure. We would have less income, but more freedom. Thus, in our simplicity, we would be rich.”