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View Diary: Bill McKibben on the End of Growth (151 comments)

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  •  GROWTH is the wrong word (1+ / 0-)
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    Because it over-simplifies the problem in a way that promotes shallow thinking and leads, inevitably, to some wrong arguments and conclusions, and I'm afraid, some of those ignore basic problems the world must solve, particularly those the underdeveloped and developing world face that cannot be solved without some forms of GROWTH.

    It is very true that humans have out-grown our plant in the sense of too many people consuming too much.

    And everything McKibben and you apply as a remedies are correct, particularly applied to developed, consumerist countries and developing countries on the way to that (although, with respect to the populations of such countries I can say we will never get to the same level with the same recipe because the ecosystem will crash long before that happens).

    I think more important words we should be using are CONSUMPTION, LIMITS, DISTRIBUTION and SHARING.

    Let's start with CONSUMPTION:

    - The developed world OVER-CONSUMES. It is addicted to stuff, too much of it disposable, as you note. But even if you make the disposables more durable and reuse and recycle as much as possible, the consumption is still too great and comes at the expense of others who consume less.

    - Under-developed and, to a lesser extent, developing countries UNDER-CONSUME. That is to say, they do not meet basic needs of a significant percentage of their inhabitants, while much of what is consumed directly in such countries is actually, ultimately consumed elsewhere, particularly in the case of developing, industrialized nations or those producing commodities consumed elsewhere. Of course, when we drill-down we often find significant waste, the worst sort of OVER-CONSUMPTION, so they don't escape the syndrome.

    To fix the problem requires not just more durable things, but fewer and smaller things that are reused, recycled and SHARED so that problems with DISTRIBUTION and TOTAL CONSUMPTION can be solved, which ultimately requires the imposition of LIMITS enforced by penalties for over-consumption to address the systematic problem of undervaluing resources, material and human.

    The caveat, of course, is that even in the case where there is systematic OVER-CONSUMPTION, to get off that treadmill requires periods of MORE-CONSUMPTION to remake some systems.

    For example, can you tell someone who must drive to work to earn a living that they must simply stop doing so without providing alternatives for them to put food on the table or getting them to work?  This is not a trivial problem, it is a systematic one.

    Obviously in this example there are solutions such as mass-transit, working at home or living close to work, but to actually realize that the systems need rethinking and adaptation where they exist (because totally rebuilding a system takes, um, HUGE CONSUMPTION), and where we don't have a system built yet, a more intelligent approach to building them.

    And we that have, need to accept less. Get used to the idea, and practice it.

    GROWTH is part of nature in both natural and man made systems. Things keep moving and changing. You can't simply make GROWTH a dirty word and have it go away. In fact, if you consider the facts, GROWTH is the solution, but it must be rationalized and come with CONSUMPTION LIMITS and solve problems of DISTRIBUTION, and to do so we must have more SHARING.

    Or put another way, we need to rethink ownership and along with that, it's evil twin someone else elaborated, usury.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:23:29 AM PDT

    •  Herman Daly's steady-state economics (0+ / 0-)

      Provides a good framework for thinking about it.  I posted a couple of links above about it, and thought I'd also share this quote from Daly about how a steady-state economy doesn't grow:

      The culture, genetic inheritance, knowledge, goodness, ethical codes, and so forth embodied in human beings are not held constant. Likewise, the embodied technology, the design, and the product mix of the aggregate total stock of artifacts are not held constant. Nor is the current distribution of artifacts among the population taken as constant. Not only is quality free to evolve, but its development is positively encouraged in certain directions. If we use "growth" to mean quantitative change, and "development" to refer to qualitative change, then we may say that a steady-state economy develops but does not grow, just as the planet Earth, of which the human economy is a subsystem, develops but does not grow. - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:46:01 AM PDT

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      •  But reality is dynamic & cyclic (1+ / 0-)
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        The trick is finding the right balance and limiting the extremes.

        That is, "steady-state" is a matter of the scale verses variance and our perception of what we see when we look. Pull back far enough and all that data appears to be one fine point. Look too closely or measure to infrequently and you see only a few random points and miss the trends.

        Today, the human systems that threaten the natural ones are so far off balance the question is where to start. I say work on what you can change, and keep your eye on the big blue ball, because wherever you are, there is an axis that revolves around you you can influence.

        One world, one mess.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:09:36 AM PDT

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