The Population Conundrum
Jonathan Foley

Thank you Jonathan for your thoughtful reflections on these vexed issues. I didn’t realise that demographic predictions over the last few decades for population growth have been heading downwards, so that is an encouraging sign. The consumption bomb is another phrase I hadn’t come across so is useful in my own thinking on this.

What would constitute negative feedback on consumption? I think that is needed, but the price signal, for which most economists would argue, may not be enough (if we are wealthy enough, we can keep consuming; then only the poor miss out, which is also one of your points above). It is a challenge, but I do wonder if the issue is not so much consumption per se rather than the types of consumption. Ensuring there is a closed loop manufacturing cycles from production to consumption to recycling of the raw materials is one option. If the costs of this entire cycle get internalized, and the non-renewable resources get recycled (thus becoming a sort of renewable or at least on-going resource) then in principle we can find ways to satisfy material consumption without wrecking the earth’s Eco-services.

Still, I struggle to be confident that we can get there while we have the sort of international unfettered market capitalism that has, for the most part, short term profit maximization as its core aim. Of course nature WILL give us negative feedback on consumption eventually, but if we wait for that, it will be too late!

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