Adapting to Scarcity and Change (I)

Stating the Problem
  • Sally C. Lerner
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


Many respected observers believe that North Americans are entering an inevitable and potentially dangerous 30- to 50-year period of transition, a transition marked by increasingly intense competition for a variety of scarce resources (e.g., Brown, 1978; Commoner, 1977; Ophuls, 1977; Schnaiberg, 1980). Representative of this outlook is political economist Robert Heilbroner’s influential book, An Inquiry into the Human Prospect (1974). After outlining the limits to material growth posed by environmental constraints, Heilbroner points out that

the difficulty of managing a socially acceptable distribution of income in the capitalist nations is that it will have to contend with the prospect of a decline in the per capita output of material goods. ... The difficulties of a limited oil shortage have brought home to many Americans the hitherto unimaginable possibility that their way of life might not be indefinitely sustainable. If that shortage is extended over the next generation or two to many kinds of material outputs, a climate of extreme goods hunger seems likely to result. In such a climate, the large-scale reorganization of social shares would have to take place in the worst possible atmosphere, as each person sought to protect his place in a contracting economic world. (p. 88)


Relative Deprivation Allocation Procedure Capita Output Justice Concern Social Share 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally C. Lerner
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental StudiesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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