Supply Side Sustainability (quick post)

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October 11, 2012 by locu5amoenu5

As I’m still working on finishing reading this book myself, I’ll post this summary for now. So far, what I’ve read has greatly influenced and helped shape my current view on “sustainability” and what it requires.


Ecology and Economics



March 14, 2006


Supply-Side Sustainability

Allen, Tainter, and Hoekstra’s supply-side sustainability bears no resemblance to the trickle-down, supply-side economics of the Reagan era (seemingly in vogue once-again today, although wrapped up in “free market” rhetoric). Instead the book helps us better understand how far we need to go to begin to embrace sustainability as an ordering principle for civilization. And it helps us to get a feel for what we might do to slow our progress away from what we might call a path to sustainability, as well as what we might do to approach such…..

……In particular the authors focus on roles of hierarchy and complexity in sustaining ecological systems, human societies, and problem solving. They argue that being sustainable consists, in part, of using approaches that:

  • Manage for productive systems rather than for their outputs.
  • Manage systems by managing their contexts.
  • Identify what dysfunctional systems lack and supply only that.
  • Deploy ecological processes to subsidize management efforts, rather than conversely.
  • Understand the problem of diminishing returns to problem solving.

Allen, Tainter, and Hoekstra say that,

We will achieve sustainability when it becomes a transparent outcome of managing the contexts of production and consumption rather than consumption itself. If we shift our management emphasis to managing from the context for whole ecosystem functions, rather than for resources, the cost of problem solving will diminish and the effectiveness of management greatly increase. When a manager gets the context right, the ecosystem does the rest. Because the material ecosystem supplies renewable resources and makes them renewable, we call our approach supply-side sustainability. (p. 14)

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