Friday, July 29, 2011

Toward a Post Growth Society

This is an important concept, well articulated in the article: Toward a Post Growth Society.

Economic growth is viewed as the ultimate panacea for civilization. Grow or die; if you're not growing you're stagnating. No other species on the planet lives this way or can possibly live this way. Any species that outgrows its resources declines and ultimately dies. There's no way around it.

Continual economic growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. At some point, human growth must stop. And yet, human societies seem bent on pushing this natural limit, well... to the limit.

A truly rational and sane species, such as Homo sapiens is supposed to be, equipped with a brain, supposedly capable of projecting the consequences of our actions into the future, able to contemplate our own demise,  would indeed see the inevitability of natural limits to economic growth and would rationally decide that enough is sufficient and by golly, we'd better find a way to develop a steady state economy before we destroy our ability to exist on this, the only planet we have at our disposal.

For many very complex cultural reasons, the dominate human societies on this planet are caught up in a story of how to be a functioning human being that is radically dysfunctional in the real world we inhabit. This story tells us that we are disconnected from the natural world, that there are no consequences to our actions, and that we can continue in this state indefinitely.

This turns out not to be the case.

There are indeed limits to human growth. The resources on which we have built human societies are finite and limited. There are consequences to human actions in this world, consequences that will turn on humans if continued much longer.

It may be possible for humans to develop a steady state society that can continue into the future without destroying it, but I see no reason for optimism on that score.