Interesting responses! So now the link is live.
The basic idea is that economic health is defined as growth (increasing economy) in fundamental economic theory. But physical/ecological constraints to growth are often neglected or if they are included it is only with reference to the effects on costs. The idea that there is an actual upper limit to the amount of matter that is available is in fact defined by the first law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics is that the universe tends to disorder. This means that things do not spontaneously organize over time. (Stuff breaks down. You have to use more energy to build stuff naturally and man made than will be contained in the thing you make...building always results in waste heat). How does this relate to economics?
It means that economic laws have to be a subset of physical and natural laws. It means that we live in a closed system and that energy flows through the closed system of matter from the sun back out into space as heat and in the process we do things with it. It means that there is a limit to how much of anything is available and defines that we must pay attention to what happens when we are finished with tings that we make.
So I think a question to ponder is: do you have to have growth for an economy to be successful? Can an economy in steady state feel good to live in. Can people be happy and feel accomplished in a state where as the Tao says:
"He who feels that he has enough will always have enough"
Does this concept mean we relegate ourselves to marxist tripe? I don't think that necessarily follows. Perhaps it means things like:
consciously choosing a certain level of consumption is reasonable or is a function of what is available. And that we tax energy use/waste production as you say.
Recognizing that managing waste (what do I do with my computer when I am done with it?) is engineered into the manufacturing process even as the anabolic (development) side of the engineering process is perfected.
Island systems in biology are limited to a certain amount of space ecologically. They are microcosms for the whole planet. An island ecology is not based on matter that is outside of the island for the most part though there is some flows into and out of any island (they are not perfectly closed).
In island systems "abundance" is scale dependent. If I am an ant living on the island, the available space that I have seems infinite. If I were one of a population of caribou on the same island, then resources seem more scarce. If ants are so successful that they fill up the whole island with population and growth, a whole bunch of things start to change. Competition becomes a factor in survival as opposed to pioneering capacity. These kind of things are useful models. Some ecological systems can remain extremely stable for a long time. Some oscillate. Some undergo catastrophic failure. Sometimes its hard to tell what is going to happen in such a model system. Sometimes its not that hard at all.
Our economic systems are a subset of these processes not the other way around as near as I can tell. I dont think your comment indicated that you felt otherwise.
There is a theory of change that has been recently proposed that recognizes a multi scalar cyclical process that occurs in systems. It's called Panarchy http://www.resalliance.org/593.php
It was developed by a fellow named Hollings who worked at the Sante Fe Institute...a group that focuses on complexity theory.
This concept of change suggests that systems have 4 states of change:
1. pioneering new ideas (building them up)
2. stabilization and competition
3. revolt and system collapse
4. innovation and evolution
These stages feed one into the other rather like a 4 part yin/yang. By recognizing what phase of the system you are in you may be able to develop policies best suited to the circumstances. This concept is being studied in ecology as well as in economics and in other systems as well.
What doe this mean to our countries, our families and our lives?
It may mean that we are riding a bunch of waves and we'd best prepare ourselves for inevitable changes.
It may also mean that we have an opportunity to learn and to perhaps develop some ways of either utilizing these cycles of change or of slowing down of speeding up...or stabilizing processes.