06/25/2013

Bioeconomics

The Vicissitudes of an Upcoming Concept

Since the beginning of the industrial era two hundred years ago, human activities have profoundly modified nature’s natural cycles, thus explaining the term Anthropocene to qualify the contemporary era. As fuel stocks are exhausted, the exuberant dissipation of energy associated with economies founded on growth is coming to an end. What will be the political, economic and social repercussions on a system that is founded on an unlimited thirst for natural resources? Era of acceleration, the Anthropocene is casting its last beams of light. The 21st century will be the century of “energetic descent”. Facing such a profound breach in the history of time, the need to adopt another model than productivism imposes itself as a matter of emergency.

« Difficult is not impossible[1] », 

The bioeconomy is a concept that is currently flourishing on the international political economic arenas. In the early days of 2013, the European Commission launched a “bioeconomy observatory”. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OCDE) has also got hold of the topic, just like the American government, which published its national bioeconomy blueprint in April 2012. Have these institutions that usually subscribe to the dominant discourse for growth, converted themselves to thermodynamics? Ironically, the concept of bioeconomy arose from the works of the Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen who is considered as the first thinker of degrowth. His theories radically question the liberal economy as advocated by international institutions. As such, this self-appropriation of meaning deserves our particular attention.

Economic orthodoxy, whether neoclassical, liberal or marxist, sees the acts of production and consumption as reversible cycles that take place within a completely closed system. They do not take into account the interactions that take place between the economic process and the limited biospheric environment of our planet. In reality, the economy that is usually thought of as a purely technical phenomenon actually evolves within a physical and socio-cultural context that is impossible to ignore over the long term.

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen never ceased to question the notion of production and strongly rebelled against this abstract and rather mechanistic conceptualisation of human material activities: “The whole economic history of humanity proves with no doubt, that nature too, plays an important role in the economic process, as it does in the creation of economic value. It is time, I believe, to accept this fact and to consider the consequences for the economic issues of humanity[2]”. During his whole career he insisted on the fact that the economic process integrated valuable natural resources and produced worthless waste. From the standpoint of thermodynamics, the energy or matter that is absorbed by the economic process enters in a state of low entropy[3] and comes out in a state of high entropy.

Indeed, the second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system increases continuously towards a maximum. Humans can only use low entropy energy, or in other words, organised free energy. “Free energy implies a certain ordered structure comparable to a shop where all the meat can be found on one counter, all the vegetables on another, etc. Bound energy is dispersed and disordered energy, just like the very same shop, but after being hit by a tornado[4]”. We can burn a piece of coal, but we will be unable to recuperate the heat produced during its combustion that will have dissipated into the atmosphere. This process transforms the coal’s energy from being free and usable by men, to bound energy or in other words, irrecoverable and lost energy. In the same way that exploitable materials that we extract from the earth’s crust have a limited lifespan, they are also bound to alter and inevitably degrade to irrecoverable forms despite processes such as recycling. This anthropomorphic differentiation between exploitable energies and resources and those that are not, implies an enlightened management of these non-renewable, low entropy resources.

The externalities impasse

However, orthodox economic thought is reluctant to recognize that the entropy law is the very basis of economic scarcity that has now proven its inability to provide a measured exploitation of planet Earth’s limited resources. What Georgescu-Reogen proposes is not a simple reform that would allow for the internalisation of environmental externalities by creating economic and financial instruments. Indeed, the theory of internalisation is characteristic of the impasse into which orthodox economic thought is trapped. Externalities take place when the activity of consumption or the production of an agent influences the well being of another, without this interaction taking the form of an economic transaction. We call it externality, which can in fact be positive or negative, as it evolves outside the bounds of the economic process. The proponents of ecological economics make the suggestion of internalising such externalities, or in other words to associate them to a transaction, to integrate them within the economic sphere. Robert Constanza is one of the pioneers of ecological economics. The article he published in Nature review on the 15th of May 1997, valued the total benefits of ecosystem services to humanity at a mere 33 000 billion dollars a year (minimal estimation).[5] This estimation illustrates that the value of natural capital is superior to global annual GDP, estimated to be around 18 billion dollars a year at the time. If divided by six billion individuals, these 33 billion dollars offer approximately 5 500 dollars of vital services given by ecosystems per person and per year, including the regulation of atmospheric composition, of the climate, water, the capacity for resilience, in controlling erosion, soil formation, nutriment recycling, waste treatment, pollination, biological control, species habitat, food production, raw materials, genetic resources, entertainment and cultural support.

In the wake of this pioneering article, economists such as Nicholas Stern with his study on the price of climate and Pavan Sukhdev with his economy of ecosystems and biodiversity have both determined the value of ecosystem services as: direct use value, indirect use value, capitalisation rate, non use value and intrinsic value. In other terms, does renouncing to destroy become more expensive than safeguarding a common good such as the climate or biodiversity? Doesn’t this commodification of nature equate to a false good idea? The collapse of the European carbon market illustrates the insecurity of this mechanism. But most importantly, this approach does not take into account the energetic erosion generated throughout the whole economic process.

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen proposes an entirely new imaginary. His radical remoulding of the economic process evolves entirely around its subjugation to the ecological sphere and not the opposite: “ {…} the quantity of phenomenon encompassed by ecology is much larger than that covered by economic science – {…} the economy will have to be absorbed by ecology if ever such a fusion takes place.”[6]

The concept of bioeconomy thus imposes itself as the only economic alternative that consciously operates within the planetary limits imposed by nature.

Humanity is the only specie whose survival intrinsically depends on exosomatic instruments, or in other words, instruments that are built by humans and not genetically inherited at the time of birth. For example, the sword that becomes an extension of a man’s arm, or a car that replaces our legs, or for that matter domestication, slavery and organ transplantation, all directly arise from this exosomatic evolution. By transcending the natural biological limits imposed upon it, humanity has based its survival upon an entirely different strategy than other species: it is no longer solely biological, nor is it purely limited to the economic it has become bioeconomic. Hence, the bioeconomic approach to humanity’s survival directly arises from its exosomatic evolution.

Nevertheless, the use of our tools is naturally conditioned by the exploitation of available low entropy resources, whether it is energy or raw materials.  Thus, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s bioeconomic approach only considers and apprehends itself within a framework defined by the asymmetries that condition human relations to the three sources of low entropy it can exploit and that compose his “terrestrial dowry”.

These three sources of low entropy are made up of:

–          Free energy – that is available and exploitable by humans – radiated by the sun and received by the earth.

–          Free energy that has been stocked for millions of years in the entrails of the earth under the form of coal, oil and natural gas.

–          Material and orderly structures that are exploitable such as minerals.

 

The following asymmetries compose the framework of bioeconomic issues that confront humanity:

First asymmetry: The terrestrial part of this dot is a stock, whereas the solar part can be considered as a flow. We can overexploit the earth’s resources but in no case will we be able to encroach on the solar radiations received by our descendants.

Second asymmetry: In view of this first asymmetry and the fact that it is impossible to transform energy into matter, the most critical point for humanity from a bioeconomic point of view, is the availability and exploitation of raw materials found in the earth’s crust, whether it be coal or iron. The flow of energy from the sun will carry-on warming up the earth and forests will continue to produce wood long after the disappearance of humanity.

Third asymmetry: The amount of energy received from solar radiation is infinitely superior to the stocks of free energy available here on Earth. The total reserves of fossil fuels only represent around two weeks of the solar radiation received by the planet.[7]

Fourth asymmetry: The solar energy received by the Earth is highly dispersed and its industrial exploitation thus presents immense disadvantages compared to the extremely concentrated energies already available on the planet. Using direct solar energy would equate to using the kinetic energy released by each raindrop before it hits the ground. Sadly, sunlight does not produce rivers or lakes, which would significantly facilitate its exploitation by collecting it like hydraulic power.[8]

Fifth asymmetry: The exploitation of solar energy is exempted from pollution: the radiation, whether it is used or not by humans, will undoubtedly finish its journey under the form of heat, therefore contributing to the thermodynamic balance of the planet. The exploitation of all other forms of energy will inevitably produce relentless and damaging pollution.

Sixth asymmetry: All living beings on the planet will ultimately depend on solar energy for their survival. The competition for this energy is much more ferocious in nature. Man is no exception to this rule and has known how to ruthlessly exploit larger amounts of energy thanks to his exosomatic utensils. Riffles for example, have allowed him to exterminate wolfs that used to stole his food.

Reconverting the economy into energy

            The whole problem surrounding bioeconomics arises from the settlement we must carry out between two distinct sources of low entropy. The first, terrestrial, polluting and rare but highly concentrated and easily accessible, comes from the innards of the earth. The second, almost unlimited[9] and non-polluting but dispersed and not easily exploitable, comes straight from the sun.

However, over the past few centuries there has been a movement away from solar sources towards terrestrial sources of low entropy. The bull, whose mechanical power is supplied by solar radiation (collected via photosynthesis), is replaced by the tractor, which is built and put into motion thanks to terrestrial sources of low entropy. Another example is manure, which is only available if the sun shines, has been replaced by chemical fertilizers, extracted from phosphate mines that are already depleted.[10] Modern, mechanistic agriculture, says Georgescu, is maybe inevitable when considering the present circumstances – overpopulation and rural exodus – but is entirely uneconomic over the long term and will inevitably drive us into a dead end. The case of the agricultural sector is particularly explicit on this matter even if the same can be said of all sectors of human activity.

Because it promotes the exploitation of finite planetary resources – energy and free matter – and because it produces irreducible pollution emanating from it, human economic activity undertaken by present generations affects the one of future generations. Thus, the major stake facing humanity is that of distributing the terrestrial dowry between all generations. This question is in fact excluded by traditional economic science that is limited to the administration of rare resources for the benefit of the present or for the near future at best.[11] For Georgescu-Roegen, bioeconomics is primarily concerned about the reconversion of the energy economy. We need to stop perpetually looking for more efficient and economic ways of extracting mineral energies and focus on the research and diffusion of technologies that would allow us to directly harness the power of the sun. Those techniques that have already been mastered, such as organic agriculture that is akin to permaculture, must be disseminated to all, so that each human can experience it himself. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s bioeconomy implies a return to solar energy and the respect of bio-geophysical cycles, as this is the only possible way to guarantee exosomatic comfort for future generations.

Abandoning industrialism

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen is not a fervent supporter of a return to a picking[12] economy but he encourages occidental societies to abandon unbridled industrialism and to adopt a minimal bioeconomic program that would guarantee the long-term survival of humanity:

  1. By Prohibiting war and the production of all warfare equipment. From the point of view of mineral resources exploitation, the military industry is a total heresy whose eradication would not only liberate a fantastic production force whilst also enhancing human morality.
  2.  Help the poorest nations to achieve a decent level of existence but not a luxurious one.
  3. Progressively diminish global population to the point where organic agriculture would suffice to comfortably feed it in its entirety.
  4. Avoid all conscious wastage of energy. Energetic sobriety is of paramount importance, whether it is for heating, air conditioning, lighting or speed.
  5. To heal ourselves from our morbid thirst for extravagant gadgets and powerful cars.
  6. Get rid of fashion.[13]
  7. Conceive products that are as durable as possible and bear the capacity to be repaired.[14]
  8. Cure ourselves from the “the electric razor cyclodrome” that consists in shaving faster to have more time to create a machine that allows you to shave even faster and so on to infinity. We have to understand that any existence that is worth living must be composed of an incompressible period of idle time off.

Today, it seems inconceivable to sacrifice our exosomatic comfort to a non-existing beneficiary. Georgescu’s bioeconomic approach founded on an equitable and durable distribution to all generations of our planetary low entropy dowry thus implies a new ethic and a real cultural revolution. But Man can also make the choice of living a brief, feverish and exiting life based on the unbridled consumption of finite terrestrial resources, in which case, he must be aware that he will soon surrender the biosphere, of which he is momentarily the inheritor, to less greedy species who will still benefit from the advantages of solar light for many years to come.

The bioeconomical thought of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen is an eschatological thought, penetrated by the idea of the inescapable decline of available energy resources and matter. The lifespan of humanity, necessarily limited, depends primarily on its management of low entropy resources. Georgescu fiercely fought against all the economic theories that guaranteed humanity with a chimerical immortality. The theory of steady state economics is one of the most famous of these phantasmagorical theories.

The myth of the steady state

Herman Daly is an American economist, who once was a student of Georgescu-Roegen at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University during the 1960s. Today, he is a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and has been the chief economist of the Environmental Department of the World Bank. He is the first to have developed a macroeconomic concept of a zero growth economy or in other words of a steady state economy. This gave birth to a scathing critic from Georgescu-Roegen who, as for the idea of infinite growth, saw the steady state model as a complete myth that is neither feasible nor desirable.

The steady state theory, whose views at the time were shared by the Club of Rome, can be resumed as follows: with a constant human population, the consequent equilibration of our pressure on the environment would put an end to the human battle over the environment, and would start an era of infinite cohabitation of the two maintained by a steady state. Hence, this would allow, at constant stocks of capital, to limit the inflow of raw materials and so of pollution, that would thus remain within the absorption and regeneration capacities of the planet’s ecosystems.[15] Herman Daly defines the steady state economy as “an economy with constant stocks of capital and population, maintained by a low flow that remains within the absorption and regeneration capacities of the ecosystem. This supposes low birth rates as equal to mortality rates and low production rates as equal to depletion rates”.[16]

Indeed, from a thermodynamic point of view, our planet is a subsystem that is not open but closed and that can only exchange energy – solar energy- with its environment.[17] The stock of matter within it is constant. The fundamental formula of classic thermodynamics established within the closed system in a steady state, the quantity of work produced is equal to the quantity of heat received: any task can be accomplished by using a corresponding amount of energy. As the flow of solar energy is almost infinite, we would arguably be able to entirely and sustainably transform it into working energy, hence maintaining a constant level of economic activity.

This reasoning omits to say that no conversion of energy into working energy is possible without a certain amount of material support. Through friction, thermal machines that allow for example to capture solar energy – that arriving directly from the sun itself, but also kinetic energy from wind and water power- do not only dissipate energy in the form of lost heat but also in the form of physical matter. This continuous degradation of matter is imperceptible in the short run but turns out to be absolutely decisive when considering the survival of humanity. As Georgescu-Roegen puts it: “Everything around us is oxidising, breaking, dispersing and erasing itself, etc. There are no immutable material structures, because all matter and all energy are both continuously and irreversibly dissipating themselves”.[18]

A lorry that is transporting merchandise does not only produce heat. It also wears and deteriorates its rubber tyres on the tarmac, its chassis is rusting, etc. First we only change the used parts, but after a while we end up changing the whole lorry as the matter composing it has deteriorated too much. A functioning wind turbine also continuously dissipates its constituting materials, transforming them into minuscule and unusable particles.

Irretrievable? Really? Because it is impossible to create matter from pure energy, the steady state theory presupposes a total recycling of all matter that we dissipate. Supposing a sufficient quantity of energy, would it then be possible to gather these dispersed molecules and thus beat the process of entropy?

A number of ecologists by observing that certain vital chemical substances- oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. – are recycled by natural processes that function thanks to solar energy, are convinced that absolute recycling is not an illusion. It must be remembered that these natural processes do not go without losses, something that is easily forgotten as the quantities are so huge that the deficit can only be obviously observed over very long periods of time. Thus, a small part of carbon dioxide takes the form of calcium carbonate that is found in the oceans and the phosphorus contained in certain fish skeletons is dispersed to the far ends of the oceans. However, can these two substances be recuperated?

The answer given by Georgescu-Roegen is crystal clear: “But it is arguable, when thinking of the statistical interpretation of thermodynamics that it is certainly possible to gather the pearls from a broken necklace that have been scattered all over the floor. However, isn’t recycling precisely such an operation? To detect the mistake that is created by the extrapolation that takes place when passing from one scale to another, let us suppose that these same pearls have been dissolved in some type of acid and that the resulting liquid is spread out over the oceans- note that this is what is effectively experienced by all types of material substances one after the other. Let us also suppose that we dispose of as much energy as we wish, we would still require an amazingly long time, in fact almost an infinitely long time to gather the particles that compose the original pearls.”[19] Thus, it is impossible to retrieve dissipated matter. On the other hand, economic activities also produce materials that are not directly reusable but can become so. These are the worn clothes, broken bottles, old engines, etc. Only these types of used products that are neither dissipated matter nor waste are recycled and must be as much as possible. Hence, it is possible to drastically reduce the depletion of material resources but in no way possible to avoid depletion through complete recycling. The steady state theory is contradicted by the unavoidable loss of matter and energy that takes place over the course of the economic process.

Some economists see in the steady state the potential to put an end to the incessant struggle of men to gain energy and matter, a struggle that characterises our high consumption societies. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen acknowledges the importance of this objective for humanity, but argues that the repudiation of growth cannot be solved through a steady state – whose theorists fail to establish what determines sustainable levels of human population and living standards. The thermodynamic analysis shows us that only a degrowth bioeconomy is suitable, in the sense of very long term sustainability and that the only optimal scale that can guide us is the level of population that can be fed by the means of an entirely organic agriculture.

Highly criticized by his master during the early days of his career, Daly has significantly participated in the propagation of Georgescu’s subversive bioeconomic vision. Most important of which is the idea that growth and development must not be taken for inseparable processes and that there cannot be, on the global ecological scale of a “finite world”, any form of sustainable growth.[20] Growth is to produce more; development is to produce differently. Schumpeter, who once was Georgescu’s teacher, was the first to put this distinction forward. In Georgescu-Roegen’s bioeconomic perspective, to which Herman Daly contributed a lot, economic and demographic growth must be stabilised and reversed. This is the only way to guarantee humanity with a long term and sustainably habitable planet.

A few recent diversions

Today the bioeconomic concept seems to be seducing certain international political institutions. As such, the European Union has recently set up an observatory dedicated to bioeconomics. By announcing its creation during a conference on bioeconomics in Dublin, on the 14th of February 2013, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner for Research, reiterated Europe’s will to pursue – or rather to begin- its road towards an economy based on the intelligent use of terrestrial and maritime resources. The observatory will disclose its data and analysis to the public via a dedicated web portal – and by so doing, attempt to support regional and national strategies that are currently flourishing within European states.

The 13th of March 2012, the European Commission had already publicly released a strategic note on bioeconomics intitled “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe”. The unequivocal title clearly establishes that the priority is to make growth sustainable. As such, as we can see with these European institutions, doesn’t the bioeconomy simply become another avatar of the famous sustainable development oxymoron, which, as explained by Gilbert Rist, when on the lips of our leaders, becomes a synonym of the “greening” of development and economic growth?[21] This is the point of view of Hervé Kempf, who remains very sceptic over how these “technocrats from Brussels” view the idea of bioeconomy.[22] However, the state of affairs established by the European Commission is correct when observing: a rapidly increasing population, untenable environmental pressures, the rapid depletion of many natural resources, including fossil fuels, inescapable climate change, irreversible damage to biodiversity, etc. Up to this point nothing new, but we must underline the fact that this report has the merit of being very lucid as to the emergency and critical character of the situation. The development of a bioeconomy on a European scale is thus presented as the key to the future that will allow us to shift towards a post-oil society whilst continuing to maintain sustainable economic growth.

The Commission does not give a clear and precise definition of bioeconomics, but a whole series of “strategic orientations” that allow us to make out the blurry outlines of this new paradigm. This document abounds with what are hailed as innovative ideas that can rarely be found in more mainstream technocratic language (novlangue): reducing soil degradation, keeping check on the competition for arable land between food and biofuel production, popularize more healthy and environmentally friendly food diets, sustainably manage the soils, develop local food systems, develop alternative, organic and low input agricultural methods, etc. The text also asserts the importance of local knowledge and know-how, as well as the need to fight against wastage, to focus on sobriety and favour efficient food and energy chains.

One section is even entirely dedicated to science and its relationship with civil society. It states that scientific research and social considerations can no longer be considered as separate issues and that civil society must be systematically informed and implicated in the decision making process concerning societal technologies. Its strategic orientation specifically underlines the necessity to include the non-market value of numerable ecological and societal public goods such as the landscape, recreation, pollination, prevention of soil degradation, etc.

On the other hand, the article is crippled by pro-technology discourses as well as by predatory and competitive reasoning to which we have been accustomed to by technocratic ways of thinking. Biotechnologies, synthetic biology and nanobiotechnologies are thus presented to us as the inescapable outcomes to the present ecological crisis. As an example the article argues that one of the ways to successfully meet future meat demands, is to explore and intensely exploit the potential of genetics in order to select and modify the most productive species and even adapt them to new conditions caused by climate change. European competiveness seems to be the Commission’s primordial objective: technological progress remains the central theme to its bioeconomic undertaking. It appears possible that the dialogue between scientific research and civil society will be limited to “the consumer’s acceptance of new technologies”. Doubt still persists as to the way in which common goods will be accounted for within the bioeconomy but it seems that the easiest solution has currently been retained: to integrate them as best as possible within classical cost-benefit analysis.

The European Commission’s strategic bioeconomic note thus contains some real innovative propositions but remains trapped within current technologic and scientific discourses. Should we celebrate the fact that certain of its recommendations include striving for a more sober society, one that is more respectful both of the environment and of men, despite continuously alluding to growth and competiveness so cherished by today’s technocrats? Or to the contrary, should we see this initiative as the sign that the growth paradigm will simply grab hold of and annihilate all emerging economic alternatives? Until we can answer these questions, civil society has to get hold of the bioeconomy concept and participate in its elaboration in order to avoid bodies such as the European Commission or multinationals being the only actors in defining and organising these new economic alternatives.

 

Article written by Hugo Carton and Agnès Sinaï.

20th of June 2013.

Translated by Alexandre Edwardes


[1] Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 254.

[2] Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 43.

[3] Entropy, whose définition is variable, can be defined as an indicator of the quantity of unusable energy contained within a thermodynamic system at a precise moment of its évolution.

[4] Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 46.

[5] Robert Costanza et al., « The value of the world’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital », Nature number 387, 1997.

[6] Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 100.

[7] See Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 93, for the détails concerning the calculus and for an overview of the potential of different terrestrial energy sources exploitable by men. This is an approximation based on available data at the time, note that the results would not significantly change if such data was to be updated.

[8] We can consider that the chemical energy within plants as well as the kinetic energy found within the wind and waterways are a direct causation of solar radiation. In this case, the exploitation of energy is made easier.

[9] Note that if low entropy energy originating from solar radiation is almost infinte for men, the ways which we dispose of to transform this energy into work power consume a significant amount of limited terrestrial low entropy resources.

[10] According to a study directed by Dana Cordell from the University of Linköpings based in Sweden, phosphate reserves could have passed their peak before 2040, before inevitably declining over the course of the second half of the 21st century. A number of observers believe that even this estimate is highly optimistic.

[11] Homo oeconomicus will sometimes consider the future of his children and grandchildlren but never anything further.

[12] Only a picking economy would be able to completly cancel the pressure we exert on limited natural resources, under the condition that we regulate demographic growth.

[13] This point directly echos the concept of planned obsolescence. If Georgescu is only speaking about fashion or pshycological obsolescence, we must also consider planned obsolescence or in other words the action of deliberatly making a product that will not last in time.

[14] Eco-conception for example, enables us to make modular products that allow us to recuperate all the elements that are still in working order. Concerning these two last two points, see the interview with Serge Latouche produced by the Institut Momentum :

[15] Herman E. Daly , A Steady-State Economy, A failed growth economy and a steady-state economy are not the same thing; they are the very different alternatives we face, Sustainable Development Commission, UK (April 24, 2008), School of Public Policy University of Maryland College Park

[16] Herman Daly, A Steady-State Economy, article presented to the UK Sustainable Développement Commission on the 24th of April 2008. The article can be found with the following link : http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/data/files/publications/Herman_Daly_thinkpiece.pdf

[17] The earth receives an abundant amount of solar energy, thus explaining the most common critic held towards Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, of considering the earth as a closed system. Indeed, the earth is an open system from the standpoint of ecology and biogeochemical cycles. But the economy is not purely ecological. Because of technology and exosomatic instruments, modernised human economic activity is based on the massive exploitation of underground geological resources. The economy thus goes beyond the limits of the vital cycles of the biosphere that include the earth’s crust, but not the entire minéral surface. The scale of observation and comprehension are both important in defining the economic « sub-system » at the heart of the global environmental system called planet Earth, which is closed at the scale of human economic activity.

[18] See Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1979), Presentation and translation by MM. Jacques Grinevald and Ivo Rens. New Edition, 1995 (First édition, 1979). Paris, Edition Sang de la Terre, 1995, p. 123.

[19] Georgescu-Roegen, Energy and Economic Myths, New York, Pergamon Press, 1976.

[20] Jacques Grinevald, Georgescu Roegen : Bioeconomy and Biosphere, Institut d’études économiques et sociales pour la décroissance soutenable, available with the following link :

[21] Gilbert Rist, Le développement, histoire d’une croyance occidentale, third reviewed édition, Paris, Sciences Po Press, coll. « Références indedites », 1996, p. 30-31.

[22] Hervé Kempf, « Cours de bioéconomie », Le Monde, 17-18 février 2013.