Bloomington, IN supports a steady state economy

August 27, 2008 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Dave Paxson for this press release.

August 8, 2008
Kelly Boatman, Chair, City of Bloomington Environmental Commission
(812) 287-0031


The City of Bloomington Environmental Commission has adopted a position statement and completed a report to increase awareness of growth and sustainable development. The statement, “Position of the City of Bloomington Environmental Commission on Economic Growth in the United States” is modeled on similar statements issued by the United States Society for Ecological Economics and over 40 other groups inspired by the work of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy (CASSE). The statement advocates a steady state economy in which resource consumption and waste production are maintained within the environment’s capacity to regenerate resources and assimilate waste, emphasizing development as a qualitative, rather than quantitative, process.

“This position statement acknowledges that the human economy is contained within, and dependent on, a finite and depletable natural environment,” said Environmental Commission member Heather Reynolds. “Ever-increasing economic growth ultimately leads to resource consumption and waste production at rates greater than can be sustained by nature.” A steady state economy for the U.S. will depend in no small part on the efforts made by communities across the nation to achieve sustainable local economies. The first step is awareness and acceptance of the concepts, both of which it is hoped that the position statement will foster.

The report, “An Examination of the Costs Associated with Residential Growth in Bloomington” is modeled after similar studies in other communities. Such studies have shown that infrastructure costs to support growth often outpace the benefits of that growth to the city. A sustainable approach to development would mean ensuring long-term benefits outweigh costs.

The Commission’s report focuses on the City of Bloomington’s capital expenditures and how these expenditures are impacted by residential growth. The report is not intended to define the full costs of growth in Bloomington, but rather to illustrate that there are substantial costs incurred by the City to provide necessary infrastructure to residences. To fully examine costs, further analysis of not only facilities and infrastructure, but also social and environmental impacts is needed.

“The Commission’s report illustrates that the City incurs real costs that are associated with residential growth,” said Environmental Commission member Mike Litwin. “The Commission would like to see the costs of growth balanced against the benefits and incorporated into the decision-making process in order to promote sustainable development in Bloomington.” The report and position statement are available on the Environmental Commission website at

Position of the City of Bloomington Environmental Commission on Economic Growth in the United States

(Adapted from the Position of the United States Society for Ecological Economics on Economic Growth in the United States and adopted on May 22, 2008 in a 4-2-0 vote following two years of discussion.)


1) Economic growth, as understood by most professional economists, policy officials and private citizens, is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services, and;

2) Economic growth occurs when there is an increase in the multiplied product of population and per capita consumption, and;

3) Economic growth has long been a primary policy goal of U.S. society and government because of the belief that it leads to an enhanced quality of life, and;

4) Economic growth is usually measured by increasing gross domestic product (GDP), although this is an incomplete indicator of quality of life that excludes the equity of income distribution, other social factors such as physical health and level of crime, and ecological health, and;

5) The U.S. economy grows as an integrated whole consisting of agricultural, extractive, manufacturing, and services sectors (and the supporting infrastructure) that requires physical inputs of non-renewable resources, land and water, and that produces wastes, and;

6) Economic growth occurs in a finite and depletable biophysical context, and;

7) Continuing non-renewable resource-intensive economic growth is having unintended damaging consequences for ecosystems and human societies…

Therefore, the Bloomington Environmental Commission takes the position that based on the above evidence:

1) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health (in such areas as biodiversity conservation, clean air and water, and atmospheric stability) and the ecosystem services deriving from healthy ecosystems that underpin the human economy (for example, regeneration of renewable resources, decomposition and recycling of wastes, pollination of crops
and other vegetation, and climate regulation), and;

2) Although technological progress and unregulated markets have had many positive effects they cannot be depended upon to fully reconcile the conflict between economic growth and the long-term ecological and social welfare of the U.S. and the world, and;

3) A sustainable economy (that is, an economy with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption) is a viable alternative to a growing economy and has become a more appropriate goal for the U.S. and other large, wealthy economies, and;

4) A long-run sustainable economy requires its establishment at a size small enough to avoid the breaching of ecological and economic capacity (especially during supply shocks such as droughts and energy shortages) to promote the efficient use of energy, materials and water, and enable an accelerated shift toward the use of renewable energy sources, and;

5) A sustainable economy supports economic development, an increase in human welfare through strategic changes in the relative prominence of economic sectors and techniques (e.g. renewable vs. non-renewable energy) that maintains the human economy within the regenerative and assimilative capacity of the larger earth system, and;

6) While establishing a sustainable economy, it would be advisable for the U.S. to assist other nations in moving from the goal of economic growth to the goal of a sustainable economy, beginning with those nations currently enjoying adequate per capita consumption, and;

7) For many nations with widespread poverty, increasing per capita consumption through economic growth and often via more equitable distributions of wealth remains an appropriate goal.

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