The recent financial crisis has dramatically shown how flimsy the banking and investment institutions are that were supposed to be so robust, and how vulnerable they are to false expectations of continued rapid growth and consequent over-exploitation of the monetary and fiscal arrangements that serve as surrogates for the real economy.
What is true of the economic system is also true of the ecosystem. Beyond a critical threshold, the services that the biosphere has evolved and provided over millions of years can breakdown with little warning and with much loss to human, social and economic values.
The underlying deficiencies that can cause failure or collapse of ecosystems are much the same as for economic systems: short term profit maximization, toxic by-products, wrong pricing signals, and the failure by governments to implement precautionary policies because of insufficient controls and inadequate early warning systems. The surprise element is enhanced by the absence of proper accounting methods and the scarcity of requisite skills in systems analysis and management.
The extent to which the economy and material wealth can grow are constrained by the limits set by the Earths resource endowments. Technology and innovation can in some cases extend these limits, but rarely by very much.
We, the supporters of this Declaration, strongly believe that economic stability in our finite world depends on how quickly we can introduce low impact production systems that can satisfy human needs and bring quality of life to all people.
Traditional environmental technologies are no longer enough. Decoupling the meeting of human needs from the use of natures resources will require radically new infrastructures, goods, services, processes, systems and business models. While some changes in lifestyle, consumption patterns and production systems will certainly be necessary, it is technically possible to achieve this without abandoning the things that we value most.
It is now widely accepted that wellbeing is more than material consumption. Human fulfillment includes factors such as education, health, safety, freedom from violence, environmental quality, social embeddedness, leisure, and equity. Despite huge technological progress, many aspects of human wellbeing have not increased in industrialized countries since the mid 1970s; some are even declining.
We call for a new global strategy for governing the use of natural resources that generates fair access to them for present needs while maintaining their availability for future generations. By combining efficiency and resource productivity targets with sufficiency norms evolved through participative mechanisms, it should be possible to avoid the traditional type of growth rebound effect sometimes experienced.