Research Reveals Environmental Catch-22 in the Development of New Technology

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The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) has published groundbreaking research that explains why technological progress will not reconcile the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. Previous research on this topic has overlooked crucial linkages among profits, R&D and economic growth. The findings resolve a mystery on the origins of technological progress, with major implications for policies on economic growth.

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) has published research in the journal Conservation Biology explaining why technological progress will not reconcile the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. Although technological innovation can have positive environmental effects, CASSE's new research reveals that technological progress depends on increasing production and consumption of goods and services.

Key points include:
-Technological progress is a result of research and development, or "R&D."
-R&D is dependent upon economic surplus, primarily in the form of corporate profits.
-Profits (and surpluses in general) dry up except for firms that maintain a competitive advantage.
-Competitive advantage is maintained via R&D, revealing a catch-22: R&D is necessary for maintaining economic surplus, but surplus is necessary for maintaining R&D.
-The catch-22 is broken with economies of scale, or the efficiency gains resulting not from new technology, but from increasing the size of the enterprise with current levels of technology.

CASSE president Brian Czech has been investigating the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection for years. The Conservation Biology article thoroughly describes the theory and empirical evidence behind this conflict. It concludes with a set of tools and findings for journalists to refute the fallacious rhetoric that "there is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment."

Article citation: Czech, B. 2008. Prospects for reconciling the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation with technological progress. Conservation Biology 22(6):1389-1398. Page proofs available online.

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