Tue, 10 May 2005

Extensive vs. Intensive Growth

You will very often hear leftists (by which I mean non-economists; leftists who understand economics become libertarians) complain about growth. Growth is bad for the environment, they say. This is not necessarily true. There are two different types of growth. Extensive growth is simply more of the same. A lumber company that cuts down twice as many trees would be growing extensively.

Intensive growth is different. With intensive growth, you have companies doing more with less. Lumber companies used to just cut down trees, then slice the trees up into lumber. They have grown intensively by using more of the same tree. The limbs get chipped and turned into chipboard. The parts of the tree which are too twisted to become lumber get turned into flakeboard. The sawdust is reused rather than treated as a waste product. The sawblades are thinner so less wood is turned into sawdust. The saw is computer-controlled so the sawyer uses his judgement to grade the cuts, then the sawmill automatically cuts the boards. More products are being made from the same amount of trees.

So when you hear somebody complain "Oh, growth is bad for Mother Earth", ask them "What kind of growth?"

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