Home 4.Population and environment 4.2. The current state of the debate 4.2.1. The zero growth: a desirable utopia?

4.2.1. The zero growth: a desirable utopia?

Despite all these criticisms, Ehrlich’s theory has been followed by certain minor institutions, since it has been upheld by several groups (mainly Population Council of Chicago, The Sierra Club of San Francisco, Planned Parenthood World Population of Nova York and Population Connection, previously known as ‘Zero Population Growth’ of Los Altos, California) and several authors (René Dubos, George Borgstrom, Barry Commoner, Garret de Bell, etc).

For all of them, the solution for the environmental impact minimisation is to stop the demographic expansion until reaching zero growth, in order to reduce the demographic growth pressure on the natural resources and other effects, as the contamination, the deforestation, etc. Some authors go even further by considering the zero growth a favourable factor for the economy, which can probably be reached by stopping the scientific and technological progress.

In general terms, this argument has two evident objections: firstly, the technological progress is an accumulative and dynamic process, which involve the renunciation of certain techniques and the adoption of recent ones, derived from the acquisition of new knowledge and experiences; thus, there are no reasons to think that this progress is going to stop. And secondly, this perspective just considers the offer, although not the offer alone depends on the price fluctuations and changes, and the technology; and does not take into account the demand, which is also affected by the same factors, so, it can also be manipulated.

Another criticism to the zero growth upholders is that they do not consider the negative consequences that the lack of growth may have on the economic development, since it has been proved that both of them have a parallel evolution, so, if one of them slows down, the other one will tend to do the same. Moreover, it is important to point out that the high growth period is relatively short and may simply be a transitional process that, for the moment, does not require any measure in order to stop it.


DOW/URV Chair Sustainable Development.