« Gas Prices Not 'Outrageous' | Main | Is Cap and Trade Dead? »

June 12, 2008


Steve Salmony

Let us take a moment to identify global challenges that are emerging and converging in our planetary home. Of course, this is a partial list to which other threats to human and environmental health can be added.

1. Unregulated human overpopulation of Earth
2. Unwelcome human-induced effects of global warming in particular and climate change in general
3. Human-driven pollution of Earth's environs
4. Reckless dissipation of Earth's resources by the human species, with particular attention to the challenges posed by peak oil and peak soil.
5. Relentless expansion of the unbridled global economy.

These distinctly human activities appear to be overspreading the surface of Earth on such a gigantic scale and at so astounding a growth rate that scientists can make projections indicating a noticeable risk to life as we know it and to the integrity of Earth, perhaps in these early years of Century XXI. That is to say, Earth cannot much longer sustain unrestrained human population growth, unrestricted per human consumption and unchecked economic globalization without running the risk precipitating some kind of global ecological catastrophe.

Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

Steve Salmony

How do rich and famous people, who live large and have huge ecological footprints, as well as corporate 'citizens' that cast giant shadows over the Earth today, so easily get away with socially irresponsible behavior?

As everyone knows but few openly discuss, wealth and power buy freedom. What is all too obvious but often cloaked in silence is this: A small minority of individuals in the human family with great fortunes and virtually all large corporations exercise their great wealth and power in ways that allow all of these self-proclaimed masters of the universe to live lavishly as well as to willfully refuse assumption of the responsibilities which necessarily come with freedom.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001


Thanks for the pointer, Dave. I've become so jaded over the choices and the impossibility in the USA of a carbon tax, I'm more than willing to accept cap & trade even knowing it's a load of bunk. Just need to see some action. At least the price of oil has gone up and grabbed people's attention. But what viable politician is going to step in and say, "My, that increase is just not enough. We need to add a carbon tax."?

It's an ugly mess.

Steve Salmony

Many thanks to Trinifar for providing us with insights derived from a rare clarity of vision, coherence of mind and intellectual honesty.

Trinifar, perhaps we not discussing real issues, but rather tip-toeing around them.

From a historical perspective, it appears that humankind is the only organism on Earth that produces food, amasses more food than is needed for survival and made food into a commodity. Farmers have not been primarily motivate by an altruistic desire to grow food because they have wanted to feed a growing population, nor have they been selling food to increase human population numbers. The more food farmers grew, the more wealth they accumulated. Our (agri-)culture has evidently devised a spectacularly successful economic system that continuously expands the food supply for human human beings worldwide. What I am trying to suggest is simply this: An economic system that requires ever increasing food production, supposedly to feed a rapidly growing human population, appears to be inadvertently and unexpectedly enlarging the size of the human population on Earth.

That is to say, the predominant culture and its global economy appears to produce many wonders as well as potentially deleterious impacts. Would you agree that if our culture chooses to keep growing the global economy as we are doing now, then we will likely keep getting what we are getting now... for better and worse?

For a long time, the leaders of the predominant culture have chosen to continuously expand production capabilities, ones that give rise to the rampant economic globalization we see today. Unfortunately, an ever expanding, leviathan-like global economy appears to give rise to something recognizably unsatisfactory because it could become unsustainable.

If you will, please consider how the relentless hoarding of wealth and the conspicuous over-consumption of resources by millions of people leave billions of people in the family of humanity hungry.

For fortunate millions of people with riches to recklessly consume limited resources, while billions of less forunate people go without adequate food to eat, seems somehow not quite right.

Inequity is sad enough; grotesque inequity will one day be considered intolerable, I suppose.

If leaders of our predominant culture choose to modify the way the unbridled global economy continuously grows and the way it inequitably distributes resources, then perhaps they and we will find more reasonable, sensible, fair and, equally important, sustainable ways of performing these practices better.

Perhaps it is a mistake for me to do so; but, nevertheless, I am assuming most of us can agree that the unbridled expansion of the global economy, given its huge scale and rapid growth, will result in this manmade economic colossus eventually reaching a point in human history when it becomes patently unsustainable in a finite world with make-up and size of Earth.

Steven Earl Salmony

Do you think the children will ask those in my not-so-great generation of elders, “When did you see the good scientific evidence of what everyone knew? Why did you not say anything, even though you did not know precisely what to do? How on Earth could you stand by, as if hysterically blind, willfully deaf and electively mute, and allow “…the greed.....of a thousand little kings…” who arrogantly see and proclaim themselves “masters of the universe” to precipitate the destruction of life as we know it and God’s Creation in the early years of Century XXI?"


I also think that carbon tax is better but I also acknowledge that it is not politcally feasible.


Steven Earl Salmony

What do economists see as the size, shape and make-up of Earth?

It appears as if the family of humanity lives in a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planetary home. If Earth is bounded in space-time; if Earth’s limited resources are being recklessly dissipated; and if Earth’s environs are being irreversibly degraded by relentless pollution, can an adequate, reality-oriented case be made by economists for the sustainability of the colossal scale and fully expected, seemingly endless growth of the artificially designed, manmade global economy that is rampantly overspreading our planetary home?

Do economists still believe that the Earth is flat, that Earth is like a mother’s teat at which the human species can perpetually suckle, or that the planet we inhabit is a cornucopia?

If so, please explain.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Steven Earl Salmony

The economy is saved, now how about turning attention and financial resources to saving the Earth from a meltdown?

It looks as if the Wonder Boys on Wall Street, who caused the current disaster in the world's financial system, are going to rescue the family of humanity from a meltdown of the global economy.

Is it too much to ask some of these multi-billionaires to provide wealth to save the world from the global "meltdown" of Earth's ice pack that is occurring in Greenland, Antarctica, the high mountain ranges from the Arctic Cordillera, to the Andes to the Himalayas?

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Steven Earl Salmony

Dear William Buiter,

For a moment, imagine a situation in which unbridled greed is extolled as a virtue. Imagine circumstances in which pathological gambling activities, the conscious promulgation of fraudulent financial instruments and the consensual validation of patently unsustainable business practices have been surreptitiously insinuated into the global economy. Do you think it would make sense to place a tax on individuals and corporations holding obscene amounts {ie, more than one million dollars for individuals and one-hundred million dollars for corporations} of toxic, ill-gotten gains?




I cannot believe educated economists are still making arguments like this. Demand for gas is so highly inelastic that a miniscule tax like the one recently introduced in BC will have negligible effects on reducing pollution. I suspect the price paid by consumers would have to increase significantly to have any kind of effect on their incentives.

Victor Rodriguez

I came across an article on http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1609103/was_last_weeks_stock_market_rally_real.html?cat=3 . It really puts into prospective the recent down turn in the economy.

Noah Pollock

At the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, we routinely debate the merits of different policy approaches to reducing global carbon emissions. (To see a video of a two hour panel discussion hosted last year on this topic, go to (http://www.uvm.edu/climatechange/FocustheNation/archives/videos/CarbonMarkets.mp4)

Recently, several professors here have been advocating for the creation of an Earth Atmospheric Trust with the following steps:

1. Set up a global cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions all greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.

2. Auction off all emission permits and allow trading of permits.

3. Gradually reduce the cap to follow the 450 ppm target (or better). The price of permits will go up and total revenues will increase as the cap is reduced.

4. Deposit the revenues into a trust fund, managed by trustees appointed with long terms and a mandate to protect the asset (the climate and atmosphere).

5. Return a fraction of the revenues to everyone on earth on a per capita basis. This amount will be insignificant to the rich, and much smaller than their per capita contribution to the fund, but will be enough to lift all the world's poor out of poverty.

6. Use the remainder of the revenues to enhance and restore the asset. They could be used to fund renewable energy projects, research and development on renewable energy, payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, etc.

Incidentally, you can learn more about this concept - and other ideas, by taking classes that are part of our "Certificate of Graduate Study in Ecological Economics." This Certificate can be completed all online – other than just one required short-course that brings students together in select communities to complete a community-based project.Learn more at


Roderick Beck

I am afraid you have not done your homework. Cap and trade has been used successfully to curb sulfer dioxide emissions in the US. That program is at least 30 years old and is considered a big success.

You need to come up with better objections than "I don't like the idea".

The comments to this entry are closed.

Want Email Updates?

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz


  • This is a personal web site, reflecting only the opinions of its authors. It was built and is manitained in occasional spare moments. Statements on this site do not represent the views or policies of anyone other than the person offering up the views.


  • Our Ecological Economics web-log is designed to daylight and refine economists’ and ecologists' views, agreements, and disagreements on current environmental and natural resource issues. We also hope this blog will help ecological economics ideas gain traction in social and political discussion and policy making.


Ocassonal Contributors

Would-Be Contributors

Strategic Thinking Blogs

Blog powered by Typepad