We see it in the headlines every day, especially with the run-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
We are told we “need” 3% economic growth worldwide per year to provide jobs for our growing population, seven billion now and still increasing rapidly.
We are told we need to develop economies in emerging and “underdeveloped” countries, so they can meet the demands of “climate change” brought about by fossil fuel burning in developed countries. We are told continually that poorer nations must be allowed, even encouraged and facilitated, to grow to the level of other nations so that all seven billion + of us can have access to all the goods and services that everyone has in every other country.
We are told overall that all this growth and development must be “sustainable,” which, according to the United Nations, means “growth that meets present needs without compromising those of future generations.”
When I was in high school, I did a science project that involved running white mice through a maze while on dextroamphetamine (the mice, not me. This was the early 60s. It was relevant then.) Since I lived in a small town in Nebraska, I had to raise my own white mice to have enough subjects for the tests.
This biological experiment quickly turned into an economic experiment, as I soon learned the lessons of exponential population growth in a closed environment. I was very quickly overrun by white mice. I couldn’t give them away fast enough to disperse the growing population of my experimental subjects. I eventually had to turn the bulk of them out into a cold and unforgiving world, where they lived out the remainder of their brief and exciting lives as prey for local predators.
The lesson stuck with me through my college years and beyond. Unlimited growth in a world of finite resources is impossible.
The underlying problem is that international development agencies such as the United Nations are run by economists rather than biologists.
“Economists are master illusionists who rely on a set of fictions, fantasies and forecasts that emanate from a core magical mantra of Perpetual Growth that goes untested year after year.” Paul M. Ferrill, Myth of Perpetual Growth is Killing America.
Economists think that the only species on the planet affected by human growth is Homo sapiens itself, when, in reality, all species are negatively affected by habitat destruction and pollution caused by a growing overabundance of a single species, that same Homo sapiens.
Ed Abbey once told us that unlimited growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. This was never more true than today. Rather than oncologists, our world is run by cancer proponents, who want every human being on Earth to have cancer, thus committing humans to long term pain, misery and death in a world depauperate of resources, quiet and desperate of all other species.
The United Nations was conceived of as an international body of governmental representatives convening to address problems and solutions common to all humanity. Conceived and implemented as a social organization, dealing primarily with fascism, imperialism, war, international health and economic equality, the UN has always been an exclusively human centered organization. Missing in the charter and focus of the organization was any realization that humans are but one of many species on this planet, and, as such, Homo sapiens has no inherent prior claim to exclusive exploitation of natural resources at the expense of all other life.
This overemphasis on human economic equality, in the form of “sustainable” economic growth, is like arguing on board the Titanic that all passengers should get an equal refund for an incomplete voyage. There are simply too many people, consuming too many resources on this planet already. Insisting that all seven billion of us, and counting, should have equal access to all resources and equal opportunity for economic growth is an insane philosophy that could only have come from economists who have lost their grip on reality.
We cannot buy our way out of this mess by shuffling the deck chairs of wealth from First Class to Steerage. We must reduce the passenger load, repair the ship and steer a new course into a rational future based on biological and geophysical realities of life on this the only planet we have, to sustain the only source of Life we know.
It’s time to think or thwim.