2 February 2024

Ihe liberal economy has largely accompanied the development of a model of technological innovation, considered more efficient and based on the use of new resources and opportunities. Faced with worsening environmental pressures and their health and social consequences, this model based on the promise of maintaining a standard of consumption and production, even applied today to the prospect of “green growth”, clearly reaching its limits.

The crises we are going through call more than ever to plead for a new alliance between science and society, contributing to the necessary ecological and social transformations. This is the objective of our collective of academics in the process of being structured, the French-speaking Society of Ecological Economics (Sofee).

Our models of production and consumption in fact go beyond the limits of the biosphere in an irreversible way. However, liberal economic analyzes continue to consider nature as a simple factor of production.

It seems that it is elsewhere than in the economy – within the biophysical sciences and civil society – that references, observations and alternatives are born capable of nourishing social and political transformations commensurate with current issues: Johan Rockström and planetary boundaries, Kate Raworth and “the donut theory”, tools such as the ecological footprint, life cycle analysis, ecological debt… These works highlight the embeddedness of socio-economic systems in the biosphere, the basic principle of the ecological economy that we promote.

The depletion of natural resources

Ecological economics criticizes the idea of ​​green growth and a possible decoupling between economic growth and its environmental impacts. Limiting pollution and the consumption of resources thanks to technological progress comes up against two pitfalls.

First pitfall, the energy savings generated by more efficient machines accelerate the depletion of natural resources in the long term. For example, improving the energy efficiency of digital devices cannot compensate for the increase in the number of screens, applications, networks, data centers and connection time.

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Second pitfall, outsourcing and making environmental and social impacts invisible. For example, the development of digital technology fuels vast open-air landfills, far from Western countries, and relies on massive excavations of strategic metals.

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