Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan: post growth and post-peak-oil works?

This blog post has a lot of copying from of Japan: The World’s First Post-Growth Economy? at
One of the problems with the post-growth movement is that it can appear theoretical. More of the ideas have been tried than you might think, but certainly they haven’t all been tried at once as a deliberate strategy. No matter how confident we might be, we lack proof that a post-growth economy is possible. Or do we? Perhaps the world already has a post-growth society, albeit an unintentional one. Here’s what Japan’s GDP has been up to for the last twenty years:

I also contrast this against the chart of Japan's energy consumption which proves my point of the intrinsical link between energy and economic growth. Japan is also a country that emits a lot less carbon per person than most other rich countries.

And yet, the lights are still on, everything still works. Literacy is high, and crime is low. Life expectancy is better than almost anywhere on earth – 82 years to the US’ 78. The trains run to the second. Unemployment is only 5%, and levels of inequality are enviable. In fact, it is living proof that growth isn’t necessary to deliver a high standard of living. And they even seem to cope with the effect of the earthquake and disaster fairly well. This because Japan is a rather well functioning society with social capital
That’s not to say that Japan is to be envied or emulated. A legacy of failed stimulus ideas has left it with big debts, and the future is as uncertain as it is anywhere. Neither is it a steady-state economy in the way that matters most – in its materials. Japan consumes considerably more than a one-planet share and is not sustainable in that sense.
The point is that for well over a decade, one of the world’s most important economies hasn’t grown. And at the end of that stint, it’s still a great place to live. So maybe Japan isn’t a failure. Maybe it’s just ahead of its time – not ‘stagnating’, but settling into the plateau of ‘enough’.
After 15 years of fretting, maybe it’s time Japan embraced its post-growth state and told the economists where to stick their theories. Professor Norihiro Kato recently suggested that Japanese youth culture was doing just that, downsizing and taking a more measured approach to consumerism. Japan’s population had already levelled off, he noted. He even suggested Japan was entering a post-growth era. “Japan is a small country” people are saying, “and we’re O.K. with small. It is, perhaps, a sort of maturity.”
Japan, whether it likes it or not, is the world’s first post-growth economy. It won’t be the last. Japan proves that growth isn’t necessary to safeguard the things that matter most in life. There’s nothing to fear in levelling out, and if the alternative is boom and bust, then the plateau is a far safer place to be. How Japanese people themselves look at it can be read at: 

Update: just a few days after this was posted, The Guardian had an article about Japan as a show case for how "post-peak-oil" could look like.  So I amended the headline of this article, to include that perspective. I had already mentioned that there is this strong link between energy growth and economic growth. Essentiallyh post-growth and post peak oil are the same, at least as long as we have an economic system as the one we have.

No comments:

Post a Comment