Richard Heinberg on Life After Growth


Lloyd Alter

Richard Heinberg invented the term "Peak Everything," a term we have used a lot on TreeHugger. He has written nine books on the subject of how "resource depletion and population pressures are about to catch up with us, and no one is prepared."

He concluded his recent talk in Toronto with the statement "Every crisis is an opportunity, and we are about to enter the biggest opportunity of our lives."

He is grimly optimistic, and as the slide shows, believes "life can be better." but before he gets to that upper of an ending, we have a downer of an introduction- a litany of what we are running out of (oil, soil, phosphates, natural gas and even coal).

We have reached the end of economic growth as we have known it. The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it. The economic crisis that began in 2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and that it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades--a period in which economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve.

But he does believe that we can transition to a new economy that isn't based on growth.

The only reasonable response, it seems to me, is to act as if survival is possible, and to build resilience throughout society as quickly as can be, acting locally wherever there are individuals or groups with the understanding and wherewithal. We must assume that a satisfactory, sustainable way of life is achievable in the absence of fossil fuels and conventional economic growth, and go about building it.

Talk about "Opportunity"! Heinberg sees the Transition movement as a beacon in this calamity, and concludes an essay on his site that pretty much says what his talk did:

Call it Transition, call it cultural survival and renewal, call it what you will, it is the only game in town for the foreseeable future.

It was a fascinating talk, but I suspect Richard was preaching to the converted; a room full of aging hippies and very young proto-hippies. As Sami has noted, "From the groups that I have met and been involved in, there seems to be an inherent interest in the low-tech, appropriate technology type solutions--be it vermiculture, organics or rocket stoves--and a mistrust of many things high tech or market driven, from electric cars to photovoltaics." There seems to be a sort of 1969 back-to-the-land vibe to it all.

But anyone who can turn this crisis into an opportunity deserves serious attention.

More on the Transition Movement:
The Dark Side of Transition Towns? Worldchanging Slams Transition Movement
The Transition Handbook
Planet Green's Green Glossary: Transition Towns

Tags: Toronto

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