Nørgård, Jørgen Stig2; Levin-Jensen, Anna Karina M.2
1 Department of Buildings and Energy, Technical University of Denmark2 Department of Civil Engineering, Technical University of Denmark
Most debates on environmental sustainability focus on the constraints this will impose on human behavior, because mainstream economic theory of insatiable human wants is taken for granted in real life. A natural satiation option is ignored as an element in a sustainable economy. Fortunately, from an environmental point of view, economic satiation appears increasingly as a trend among people in many highly industrialized countries like Denmark. Surveys as well as labor market negotiations point towards preferences for more leisure time over more income and consumption. Governments and businesses, who are both aiming for growing GDP, have usually counteracted such trends. Increased advertisement, longer shopping hours, lower equity are examples of counteraction. The paper first outlines how the technological solutions can contribute to sustainability but also describes how a strategy on technology alone will fail to achieve the goal, partly because of limitations in the technological potential and partly because of feed backs if classical growth theory is maintained as the basis for the economic policy. As an alternative approach to economic policy, it is suggested to accept and even encourage the satiation trend. This could constitute a decisive contribution to reaching an environmentally sustainable development, since it would allow the full benefit of technical improvements to come through. Furthermore, since the satiation reflects a wish by people to achieve a more satisfactory life, a satiation promoting policy will per definition imply a better everyday life for the majority.