An interview with Bill in 2009 by the Newcastle Herald Living Gardening section.
Economists usually want economic growth. Can we have infinite growth and a sustainable future in a finite world?
The short answer is no. The potential for economic growth has to be balanced against the constraints imposed by the natural environment, by the availability of productive inputs, and our sense of social equity. Mainstream economics is deeply flawed in this regard. It considers there is an infinite trade-off between ecology and growth. However, it fails to understand that the natural environment is a living system and can die unexpectedly if overused. Mainstream economics in general only considers things to be valuable if they can be priced in the private marketplace. Social benefits and costs are difficult to quantify because there is no market for them.
How do you define “sustainability”?
Sustainability is where:
(a) Everyone can find enough work with decent pay and conditions. This should be a primary responsibility of the Australian Government.
(b) All those who genuinely cannot work are provided a decent standard of living through government support.
(c) Governments ensure first-class education and health systems are accessible for all, irrespective of wealth and income.
(d) The footprint of production is balanced against the requirements of nature.
(e) Permaculture principles guide commercial and urban farming.
You recently worked on a report for Greenpeace on renewable energy. What did you find?
Our research demonstrated that the Hunter Region would benefit if coal-fired power generation was replaced by renewable energy. This would create thousands of well-paid jobs in the research, design, manufacture, installation, maintenance and export of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Claims that substantial net job losses would accompany this shift are wrong. The shift would create at least 9400 new jobs, compared to the estimated loss of 3637 jobs in coal-fired generation. The adjustment, however, would be painful and we advocate a just transition to ensure that the costs of restructuring do not fall only on workers in targeted industries and their communities. This requires government intervention and community partnerships. With strong government commitment, the Hunter Region could become a renewable energy hub, and in doing so revitalise the region’s manufacturing industry.
Note: You can download the entire research report and the modelling results from HERE.