Our addiction to growth

The myth of infinite growthAccording to the G20 final communique:

Raising global growth
to deliver better living standards
and
quality jobs for people across the world

is our highest priority.

I’m sorry, I don’t agree. In fact, we need to kick our addiction to growth as a matter of urgency. Our modern economy is built on the myth of infinite growth: our mainstream economists seem unable to imagine an alternative and, without it, are at a complete loss. Our addiction to growth is fed by unsustainable  reckless consumption and short-sighted exploitation of non-renewable resources. When are we going to wake up?

Our whole economic system is based on consumption, and growing consumption. To question our consumption levels is to question the way our whole society is structured. But we live on a finite planet, so infinite growth is not possible. Even much of the environment movement seems afraid to confront over-consumption or to promote a steady-state economy (i.e., one not based on growth). While it is safe to talk about new technologies, new forms of energy production and increasing efficiencies of energy and material use; our actual levels of consumption is a topic that governments and society in general prefers to avoid.

Underlying our addiction to growth are a number of assumptions including:

  • Growth is good; in fact businesses and economies must grow
  • Even though we live in a finite world, we should behave as if it were infinite
  • As our standard of living increases, so will our happiness
  • The depletion of natural resource and the degradation of the environment do not need to be included in measures of economic health
  • We need economic growth to eradicate global poverty and solve environmental problems
  • Human ingenuity and technological developments will allow our economies to just keep growing.

It is time start challenging these assumptions. As Naomi Klein argues in This changes everything:

Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Once again, our world leaders have let us down and wasted the opportunity to put environmental sustainability at the heart of our economic and political deliberations.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  2. Climate change: we need to clean up after ourselves
  3. 10 things you need to know about the lastest IPCC report on climate change
  4. Parenting for a better world
  5. The paradox of inconsequence

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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