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The Myth of Resource Efficiency: the Jevons Paradox by Polimeni, Mayumi, Giampietro and Alcott; review by Hazel Henderson

The Myth of Resource Efficiency: the Jevons Paradox by John M. Polimeni, Kozo Mayumi, Mario Giampietro and Blake Alcott, Earthscan, 2009
 
 
It's a testament to the stranglehold that the economics profession has over public policy and private decision-making that the authors of this useful book had to spend so much time and effort in trying to convince economists of their systems-oriented thesis. The so-called "Myth of Resource Efficiency" views the issue through the lens of the now-discredited economic discipline and its obsession with money, the price system and markets. Fully half of this book is devoted to the history of economic theories on the extent to which "efficiency" as variously defined by generations of economists will lead to a fall in prices and therefore a rise in consumption. Yet their extensive bibliography omits the key contributions from Nobelist chemist Frederick Soddy who pointed out in his Cartesian Economics (1913) that economists' factors of production failed to include the fundamental one: energy from the sun; from Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's The Entropy Law and the Economic Process(1971) which I reviewed in the Harvard Business Review (1971); and E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful (1973). All took economics to task for its myopic view of the production process and its over reliance on money, prices and markets. Needless to say, as with my own work, all three were excoriated, ridiculed or ignored by the mainstream profession.
 
Thus, I contend that the subtitle of this book, "The Jevon's Paradox," is a throwback and an attempt to pander to an already defunct discipline. The rest of the book is a thoughtful compilation of the best multidisciplinary approaches to modeling energy and resource use, looking at the extent to which energy efficiency leads to increased consumption and if so, how this price-determined effect can be mitigated. Taking off the clouded economic spectacles allows consideration of many pragmatic policies, from adjusting tax codes, subsidies, population policy, to public education. Therefore I suggest readers start with Chapter 3 on page 79.   
 
– Hazel Henderson, author of the Nautilus and Axiom award-winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy