And also ignorant:
We have no hope of emerging from this full-spectrum crisis unless we dramatically reduce economic activity. Wealth must be distributed – a constrained world cannot afford the rich – but it must also be reduced. Sustaining our life-support systems means doing less of almost everything. But this notion – that should be central to a new, environmental ethics – is secular blasphemy.
Be poor peasants! is not actually a useful piece of guidance for the future.
The problem here being that Monbiot simply does not understand what economic activity, nor economic growth, is. It’s the addition of value. That’s what GDP, that incomplete measure, is. That’s also what the consumer surplus, that thing the modern world creates in ever larger proportion to GDP, is. We create value, we consume value, our incomes are the value we create in aggregate and consume individually.
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that value creation is limited by the physical world around us. Rather, the limit is the knowledge of how to add value. Entirely agreed, there are physical limits on certain types of value creation – there’s some number of copper atoms on the planet, we cannot use more than that number. But using the copper for paperweights or telephone lines gives us different amounts of value creation.
The truth being that even in an entirely circular economy, one where no new resources are abstracted from nature, it is still possible to have economic growth. In fact, we would have economic growth even in such an economy. Therefore stopping economic growth is not the necessary solution to the abstraction of resources from nature, is it?
Monbiot’s failure to understand here is simply because he’s not grasped the most basic point about what the economy, or growth of it, is. Ignorance not being a notably good manner of divining what the problem is.