Scarcity and Growth Reconsidered

By V. Kerry Smith; Symposia on Stress and Coping University of Miami | Go to book overview

Foreword

In recent years, a renewed interest has emerged in the availability of natural resources for continued material well-being and economic growth. Sharply rising energy costs, increased prices of natural resources generally, widening popular support for a clean environment and improved health, the current uncertain state of the economy, and a genuine concern for the future have all contributed to the public's recent questioning of whether or not it will be possible to provide and maintain a reasonably high material standard of living for all while ensuring that the overall quality of life remains unchanged.

Despite a history of research in this area and the current resurgence of this activity, a number of fundamental issues concerning natural resource scarcity remain both controversial and unresolved to this day. While the main concern involves the continued erosion of a finite natural resource base and whether or not technological improvements can keep pace with rapidly increasing demands for goods and services, it does not represent the whole story. A spectrum of other related problems confronts our society as well. An increasingly important set involves the detrimental side effects of production technology. These byproducts range from despoiled landscapes and pollution to toxic materials in the environment. Although some effects are limited to local degradation, others are more global in character and may even threaten natural systems which are essential for the support of life. The latter, more severe, impacts appear to be associated with some of the new technologies. Material well-being and the quality of the natural environment are integrally related, and policies established to address one will ultimately have an impact on the other. Clearly, the provision of goods and services and the uses and quality of the natural environment must be considered as a whole, and tradeoffs will be necessary.

The conference upon which this volume is based addressed some of these issues by bringing together in a single forum a wide range of professional opinion covering three principal areas of current research on resource availability.

-xi-

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