Economic growth without resource depletion is possible

In the contributions to the discussion, I often see the problem that the term “growth” is not dismantled.

In economic terms, the national product, to which the term refers, is the sum of people’s value perception expressed in money. First of all, it does not contain any information about resource consumption. This information, this connection, arises only through people’s practical perception of value: Larger apartments and cars, farther air travel are perceived as more valuable.

“Practical perception of value” because we also have a “theoretical perception of value”, which is expressed in sentences such as: “More nature would be better. More rest would be better. More culture would be better. More sports would be better … ” , but does not really get through to the level of action. It is not entirely by chance that this creation of the term is reminiscent of Kant’s “practical reason”.

Practical perception of value can and does change: more organic food, less meat consumption, more electric cars, more wind power generators & c. It can continue to change: more domestic travel, fewer but more carefully manufactured and more durable products, etc. The need for a world without floods, forest fires and lost harvests is also part of it, which is expressed in an appreciation for energy efficiency and renewables.

If the practical sense of value changes, economic growth without growth in resource consumption is possible; as mentioned above, the national product is just a sum of money that says nothing per se about the energy and material flows on which it is based.

An interesting question is whether our practical sense of value is linked to higher resource consumption through a kind of genetic hardwiring in our brains. There is much to be said for it. Not just the cliché of the man who “needs” a big car. Comfort and having our own space around us are simply pleasant. Power over energy and material flows is probably evolutionarily anchored in our system and rewarded with pleasant feelings.

If so, then conserving resources is like doing without sweets: it’s not that much fun, but it saves your teeth from complete breakdown.

This text also appeared as a comment on

Also see this blog post on the same topic (in German).

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