What If the Global Economy Was a Giant Hamster? or Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet (Video)
This is one of the funniest takes I've ever seen on what it is the single most important topic in the green movement. Forget climate change, forget renewable energy, forget peak oil, forget green gadgets, biodiversity loss, endangered species, and every other thing TreeHugger publishes. Without addressing the quest for never-ending economic growth--meaning ever increasing consumption of natural resources, beyond the ability of the planet to regenerate those--all of those other important, pressing issues will not be solved, full stop.
But don't just take such a grand statement from me. The New Economics Foundation's latest report "Growth Isn't Possible" lays things out:This is the sort of thing that NEF has been working on for a long time, deconstruction the fetish all governments, most economists, financiers, corporations, and indeed (as a result) most people have with the notion of endless economic growth, and the assumption that this is a good and necessary thing. Forgetting to even ask whether this is possible.
Tackling Climate Change Without Economic System Change Not Possible
Looking at whether economic growth is possible while at the same time meeting the climate change target of keeping average temperature rise below 2°C (CO2 concentrations of 350ppm) the report authors conclude that with a growth rate of 3%, carbon intensity of the global economy would have to decrease 95% by 2050, as compared to 2002 levels, or 6.3% per year. That's five times the rate of decrease seen between 1965-2002.
Growth Fetish At Root of Global Environmental Crisis
Report co-authors Andrew Simms:
We tend to think of growth as natural for economies, forgetting that in nature things grow only until maturity and then develop in other ways. A world in which everything grew indefinitely would be strange indeed. A young hamster, for example, doubles its weight each week between birth and puberty. But if it grew at the same rate until its first birthday, we'd be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a year's worth of world maize production every day. There are good reasons why things don't grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, so sooner or later, they must be in the economy.
The economic priorities of the rich world are as ridiculous as the impossible hamster. Endless growth is pushing the planet's biosphere beyond its safe limits. The price is seen in compromised world food security, climatic upheaval, economic instability and threats to social welfare. We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget. There is no global, environmental central bank to bail us out if we become ecologically bankrupt.
Here's the accompanying report: Growth Isn't Possible: Why we need a new economic direction [PDF]
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