The question that motivates this article has been a matter of dispute: Is it possible to combine perpetual economic growth and longterm environmental sustainability based on the premise that economic growth can be fully decoupled from negative environmental impacts? The article addresses this question from the position of critical realism. An empirical study focusing on the housing sector is conducted, indicating that housing stock growth and economic growth have been, at best, weakly decoupled from environmental impacts. In the long run, it seems implausible that the degree of decoupling can be increased at a rate sufficient to compensate for continual growth in the volume of housing stock. A further elaboration of the topic at an ontological level leads to the conclusion that continual economic growth and long-term environmental sustainability can hardly be combined.
Journal of Critical Realism, 2012, Vol 11, Issue 4, p. 438-461