Engineering a Steady State Economy

Mon, 2015-10-19 19:09 -- adminssee
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 17:30
Jane O'Sullivan, Richard Sanders and Candice Quartermain
Hawken Auditorium, Engineering House, 447 Upper Edward St, Brisbane
Event Details: 

Nearly every engineering profession is involved in building infrastructure or servicing the needs of the public. Engineering planning usually involves using projected populations, usage or consumption rates, and demographic information to determine the most appropriate size, location & design of engineering works. Yet how often do engineers actually think about these projections and if they are truly sustainable and realistic in the long term. Perhaps it is time that rather than just adopting the figures provided engineers engage in a debate to help ensure a sustainable future for Australia.

On a finite planet nothing physical can keep on growing forever. How can engineering contribute to achieving a sustainable and prosperous, but non-growing economy, also known as a 'steady-state economy'?

Members can access presentations kindly provided by the speakers, see below.


Dr Jane O'Sullivan

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences UQ

Dr. Jane O’Sullivan has led research programs on agricultural intensification in developing countries before turning attention to the demographic pressures on food security and resource overconsumption. She has published ground-breaking work on the economic impacts of population growth, particularly those related to infrastructure provision. She regularly represents Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) at United Nations climate change conferences and is currently the president of the Queensland Branch of SPA.

Presentation (1.35 MB)

Sustainability starts with a stable population


Population growth is often sidelined as merely a scale factor, not influencing what we do or how, but simply how much. This overlooks the dominance of infrastructure spending on fiscal deficits and welfare cuts, of oversupply of labour on income inequality, of escalating housing costs on cost of living, and intensifying resource scarcity on productivity. Population stabilisation is a pre-requisite for sustainable prosperity, not an ultimate consequence. A known peak population can be well and equitably planned for. Conversely, indeterminate growth undermines all we have achieved. The promotion of population growth is a grand case of abandonment of real goals in pursuit of false metrics.


Richard Sanders

Ecological Economist Quest2025

Presentation (0.28 MB)

Beyond Steady State Economics

The notion of limitless economic growth is central to prevailing economic, legal and political thought and practice. The reality of absolute scarcity makes limitless economic growth a physical impossibility and so has profound implications for economics, law and governance. Our current system of economics, law and governance structurally locks humanity into rapidly approaching ecological breakdown, ever increasing inequity and global financial collapse. 

Candice Quartermain [by skype]

Programme Director and Founder, Circular Economy Australia

Presentation (16 MB)

Circular Economy, designing for abundance

What if our vision for the future was a world where our products, organisations, cities and governments provided 100% safe and healthy products and services with systems that offered added benefits just cause they could? What if our intention was to design for all the children of all the species for all the time?
Could we create a circular economy future where nothing is wasted, resources only regenerate into systems for continual reuse, where our products and services go beyond function or purpose, adding benefits like clean air, water or food? Where everything is powered using renewable energy? (circular economy australia)

The seminar was followed by a panel discussion where comments and questions from attendees were welcomed, and concluded with a light supper, drinks and networking.

For more information download the flyer.

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