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Australia's Resource Use Trajectories

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Address correspondence to:
Dr. Heinz Schandl
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
GPO Box 284, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
heinz.schandl@csiro.au
http://www.csiro.au

Summary

Australia's export-oriented large natural resources sectors of agriculture and mining, the ways large-scale services, such as nutrition, water, housing, transport and mobility, and energy are organized, and the consumption patterns of Australia's wealthy urban households, create a unique pattern of overall resource use in Australia. In an attempt to contribute to a new environmental information system compatible with economic accounts, we represent Australia's resource use by employing standard biophysical indicators for resource use developed within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) context. We look at the last 3 decades of resource use and the economic, social, and environmental implications. We also discuss scenarios of future resource use patterns based on a stocks and flows model of the Australian economy. We argue that current extractive economic patterns have contributed to the recent economic boom in Australia but will eventually lead to negative social and environmental outcomes. Although there is currently little evidence of political support for changing the economic focus on export-oriented agriculture and mining industries, there is significant potential for improvements in socio-technological systems and room for more sustainable household consumption.

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