The limits to substitution: Metaresource depletion and a new economic-ecologic paradigm

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Date of Publication: February 1989

Year of Publication: 1989

Publisher: Elsevier

Author(s): Paul R. Ehrlich

Journal: Ecological Economics

Volume: 1:1

Pages: 9-16

Categories: ,

Assumptions about substitution are central to differing opinions on the presence of limits to economic growth. In this article, Ehrlich presents evidence countering the neoclassical economic assumption that “one resources is just like the other”. This evidence includes examples wherein substitution is not feasible/highly expensive (e.g. dams to replace flood-control services of forest ecosystems) or in which the substitutions come with “unquantified ultimate social and environmental costs”. (p13). Ehrlich’s conclusions support the presence of limits to economic growth, and the need to rapidly address the drivers of economic growth: human population size and per capita consumption.

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