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We all know Bill McKibben---one of the shining lights of the national (and international) environmental community, who's been educating us about climate change longer than most any journalist.  His creation of 350.org was crucial to a new stage of climate activism.

But because most folks know him for climate change, they don't know that he really has a deep philosophical understanding of the way we live that undergirds his analysis.  That is, he's not just telling us climate change is a problem or just explaining it as a consequence of fossil fuel use, but he goes further to explain the root of our environmental predicament: growth.  His most recent book, Eaarth, which may be the best book I've read in the past few years on any topic, actually only devotes the first of four sections to climate change.

Climate change is the backdrop.  It's already here, and it's going to keep happening.  What McKibben wants to talk about is what got us here and what we need to change to get us out.  I'd like to explore his extremely well thought out argument here today.

1. We have changed the planet.  This point isn't one that I imagine there'll be a lot of dispute about here at Daily Kos, but there are aspects of it that are worth mentioning, specifically because of some persistent misconceptions.  First, McKibben, after laying out data from numerous scientific studies:

Don't let your eyes glaze over at this parade of statistics...These should come as body blows, as mortar barrages, as sickening thuds.  The Holocene is staggered, the only world that humans have known is suddenly reeling.  I am not describing what will happen if we don't take action, or warning of some future threat.  This is the current inventory: more thunder, more lightning, less ice.  Name a major feature of the earth's surface and you'll find massive change.
One of the main things McKibben conveys is that the rhetoric on the timeframe of climate change is totally wrong:
People spoke mostly about global warming in the future tense; the word was always threat, right up through the 2008 presidential election...So how did it happen that the threat to our fairly far-off descendants, which required that we heed an alarm and adopt precautionary principles and begin to take measured action lest we have a crisis for future generations, et cetera----how did that suddenly turn into the Arctic melting away, the tropics expanding, the ocean turning acid?  How did time dilate, and "100 or 200 years from now" become yesterday?
Not only is his point that problem of climate change already here, but that the responses we thought would "fix" it actually won't.  At least not in the way we think of fixes.  McKibben describes his reaction to James Hansen's major scientific paper on how 350 parts per million of CO2 was the upper limit:
...the safe number was, at most, 350 parts per million.  The day Jim Hansen announced that number was the day I knew we'd never again inhabit the planet I'd been born on, or anything close to it.  Because we're already past 350---way past it.  The planet has nearly 390 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  We're too high.  Forget the grandkids; it turns out this was a problem for our parents.
He goes on to discuss how we can, very slowly head back downward, but that the damage that has been done and that's already baked into the climate system won't be undone for centuries or millenia, if ever:
We're not, in other words, going to get back the planet we used to have, the one on which our civilization developed.  We're like the guy who ate steak for dinner every night and let his cholesterol top 300 and had the heart attack.  Now he dines on Lipitor and walks on the treadmill, but half his heart is dead tissue.
McKibben goes through more details than I can go into here, but the bottom line is that the planet we knew---Earth---is gone.  We're on a new planet---Eaarth, he calls it---which seems the same in many ways, but has some major differences.  He details how we're running low on the oil that made our modern industrial society what it is today, just at a time when we're facing growing climate challenges.  It's a different planet than one we, and most economists, know.

2. We need to change our most engrained habit: growth.  That's the case that McKibben makes next.  As he puts it: new planets require new habits:

But now, now that we're stuck between a played-out rock and a hot place---it's time to think with special clarity about the future.  On our new planet growth may be the one big habit we finally must break.
When I've suggested as much in previous posts here, invariably someone will point out that in a bad economy, I'm just arguing against people getting jobs again, etc.  McKibben addresses this:
I understand that this is the worst possible moment to make such a point. The temporary halt to growth that we call a recession has...wrecked many lives.
He details the many advocates for "smart" growth and "green" growth, from Tom Friedman to President Obama.  He acknowledges that they are least paying attention that we need to do things differently, but that they once again get a fundamental part of it wrong:
As usual, though, grandchildren is the tip-off.  Smart people are starting to understand the size of the problem, but they haven't yet figured out the timing; they haven't yet figured out that the latest science shows that this wave is already breaking over our heads...If we had started twenty years ago, when we first knew about global warming, and when we had the first hints of peak oil, such a plan might have made sense...But we didn't do it twenty years ago, precisely because it would have interfered with economic growth.
This was his build up to perhaps the most important thing he says:
We really do need to cut carbon emissions...or meet all the other targets that good people have identified. They are precisely the way our system should respond.  And in large measure that's how it will respond. The next decade will see huge increases in renewable power; we'll adopt electric cars far faster than most analysts imagine. Windmills will sprout across the praries. It will be exciting.  But it's not going to happen fast enough to ward off enormous change. I don't think the growth paradigm can rise to the occasion; I think the system has met its match. We no longer posses the margin we'd require for another huge leap forward, certainly not fast enough to preserve the planet we used to live on.  That is a dark thing to say, and un-American, so I will try to make the case carefully.
It's a stark statement from someone who's been on the front lines reporting on these challenges for decades, who has seen everything he's reported on come to pass.  And McKibben does proceed to make the case for this very carefully, with remarkable detail, and I won't try to excerpt from it because his argument is impeccable and I don't want to water it down.  Suffice it to say that the time has passed when we can avoid the limits to growth, and the end of economic growth.

McKibben isn't alone in observing that growth is almost the only thing we know how to do as an industrial economy. As Dennis Meadows observes:

Growth advocates change the justification for the paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself:
  • 1970s: There are no effective limits [to growth]
  • 1980s: There are limits but they are very far away
  • 1990s: The limits are near, but technology and markets can evade them easily
  • 2000s: Technology and markets do not always evade the limits, but the best policy is still to pursue GDP growth, so we will have more resources to solve problems
  • 2010s: If we had been able to sustain economic growth, we would not have had trouble with the limits.
(Read that last one again!) If you'd like an example of such a justification/response to the idea of limits to growth, consider this one McKibben cites from our good friend Larry Summers:
There are no limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future...The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.
3. What should we do instead of growth?  I can't do better than McKibben does:
We recoil when faced with a future different from the one we imagine.  And it's hard to brace ourselves for the jump to a new world when we still, kind of, live in the old one.  So we tell ourselves that the scientists may be overstating our environmental woes, or that because our stock market has climbed back from its lows we'll soon be back to the old growth economy.  As we've seen, though, scientists are far more guilty of understatement than exaggeration, and our economic troubles are intersecting with our ecological ones in ways that put us hard up against the limits to growth.

...

We lack the vocabulary and the metaphors we need for life on a different scale.  We're so used to growth that we can't imagine alternatives; at best we embrace the squishy sustainable, with its implied claim that we can keep on as before.  So here are my candidates for words that may help us think usefully about the future:

Durable
Sturdy
Stable
Hardy
Robust

These are squat, solid, stout words.  They conjure a world where we no longer grow by leaps and bounds, but where we hunker down, where we dig in.  They are words that we associate with maturity, not youth; with steadiness, not flash.

He goes on to make the case that we need more small businesses, small farms, small energy providers, small banks, rather than the too big to fail institutions we have across the board.  As he puts it, we need the Fortune 500,000, not the Fortune 500.  Beyond simply the danger to our nation of sticking with large, growth-based institutions, he reiterates the point he's made in previous works of his, such as Deep Economy, that growth objectively isn't making us any happier, so we really should question why we're pursuing it.

I hate to end here, but the bottom line is that McKibben and others have identified the one central issue that defines our present already and for certain our future: limits to growth on a finite and changed planet Ea[a]rth.  Every issue we discuss and debate that this site, in our communities, with our families, in the public arena are affected by this.  It's the one all-encompassing challenge of our time.  Will we face it head on?

Originally posted to barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (188+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, Lily O Lady, WarrenS, RunawayRose, Renee, srkp23, OLinda, myboo, middleagedhousewife, psnyder, Albanius, northerntier, phonegery, Chaddiwicker, gulfgal98, citisven, SeaTurtle, jethrock, gundyj, Mother Mags, Gowrie Gal, notdarkyet, Chi, a gilas girl, Paul Ferguson, shaggies2009, hester, vacantlook, radical simplicity, Siri, BlueDragon, greengemini, ms badger, AnnieR, RLMiller, zerelda, Burned, SaraBeth, Mike Taylor, martinjedlicka, Gooserock, aliasalias, oceanview, squarewheel, SolarMom, Pilgrim X, DaveVH, bnasley, camlbacker, BobBlueMass, blue jersey mom, One Pissed Off Liberal, pat bunny, out of left field, elziax, dmhlt 66, IowaPopulist, eeff, Mary Mike, 2thanks, ferg, monkeybrainpolitics, Milly Watt, Odysseus, Cornbread Maxi, buckstop, willyr, JugOPunch, frostieb, bread, gwilson, my2petpeeves, idahojim, northsylvania, G2geek, reflectionsv37, kamarvt, WheninRome, elwior, Lonely Texan, belinda ridgewood, Cassiodorus, pbearsailor, Only Needs a Beat, Neon Vincent, oortdust, Leftcandid, Carol in San Antonio, the fan man, Bob B, Van Buren, Getreal1246, atana, David54, PeterHug, RebeccaG, DIYer, Crazy like a fox, Hopeful Skeptic, Ysmene, maryabein, jhop7, Rhysling, Ree Zen, frisco, LaughingPlanet, JekyllnHyde, marina, RonV, Simplify, DamselleFly, beforedawn, bmcphail, jennifree2bme, cai, uciguy30, hubcap, NYmom, forgore, DawnN, drnononono, joanil, happymisanthropy, basquebob, Ed in Montana, beverlywoods, txcatlin, SanJoseLady, blueoasis, DBunn, madhaus, wayoutinthestix, pixxer, terabytes, Agathena, Joieau, tonyahky, dotsright, James Wells, Calamity Jean, Midwesterners, Independent Musings, Mimikatz, tacet, ORDem, Bob Guyer, KJG52, dRefractor, peachcreek, Meteor Blades, freesia, loftT, asym, koNko, BigOkie, splashy, dear occupant, marleycat, katiec, aufklaerer, Geenius at Wrok, Liberal Mole, sunny skies, citizen dan, leeleedee, lastlegslaststand, PapaChach, No one gets out alive, farmerhunt, CA Nana, greenbastard, profundo, roses, Neosho, drewfromct, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, zett, DarkestHour, AoT, dradams, DvCM, Pescadero Bill, jam, Bronx59, linkage, Regina in a Sears Kit House, burnt out, Iron Spider

    contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

    by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:29:02 AM PDT

  •  I think Bill Moyers' (33+ / 0-)

    second guest this week can help work toward the end McKibben proposes.

    From billmoyers.com

    Just before the Occupy Wall Street movements were launched in 2011, and after five years of research, Ross’ latest book The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century was published by Penguin (Blue Rider Press). The book argues that current forms of politics, led by governments and international institutions, are failing to manage the problems that most concern us, including economic volatility, climate change and mounting inequality. Instead, [Carne] Ross proposes a new form of politics, fired by our own convictions, taking action directly to address our political concerns. As part of Occupy, Ross has put these ideas into practice in a working group seeking to establish a new bank, embodying principles of democracy and equality in its very structure.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:37:29 AM PDT

    •  Hmm... (10+ / 0-)

      Sounds interesting.  Do you know whether Ross addresses growth as a fundamental bad idea that can't continue anyway, or just suggests (unfortunately as many OWS folks have) that we should pursue growth in a way that benefits the 99%?

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:39:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not all of Occupy (32+ / 0-)

        sees it this way:

        ...just suggests (unfortunately as many OWS folks have) that we should pursue growth in a way that benefits the 99%?
        I acknowledge that every Occupy group is different in their emphasis and that is probably reflected of the conditions in their locations.  But behind the 99% slogans, almost every person I have met in the Occupy Movement is painfully aware and terrified of the environment havoc we have wreaked upon this planet. For example, my local Occupy Movement has taken a huge interest in food issues and in creating more sustainable and locally oriented food sources, including utilizing public spaces for public gardens.  They are also continuing on working with the folks in the Transition Towns program.

        On a personal note, as a retired land use planner who worked over 30 years in the public sector, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I and my fellow planners butted heads with the elected officials over growth.  Many elected officials feel that in order for a community to continue the flow of tax dollars, they must continue to grow.  In the minds of the decision makers, growth = economic development.

        "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

        by gulfgal98 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:02:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good to hear (10+ / 0-)

          I guess my impression was largely from interactions I learned of at the main OWS encampment in Manhattan---a number of people who advocate moving away from growth, to make living within ecological limits the central guiding principle, etc. gave talks there, and weren't that well received.  Could be in part that OWS was a movement again malformed growth-based industrialism, rather than growth-based industrialism itself.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:06:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OWS is generally... (0+ / 0-)

            ...about 'good jobs for everyone'. In my view that's their fundamental reason for existing. MoT's diaries, for example, are basically about how it sucks to be poor.

            I don't generally get the impression that OWS cares about much else. They say that environmentalism is a big deal for them, but again they think of it in terms of pollution and C02 being things that large corporations should be forced to pay for, not things that are the natural result of excessive growth even under a proper regulatory regime.

            So yeah, my impression is that it's "good jobs über alles" over there and any other issue is mostly peripheral (especially issues that might conflict with "good jobs über alles"). But again, it's just my opinion via media reports.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:08:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I get just the opposite impression.... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NoMoreLies

              so guess this is a subjective call :)

              But seems to me that the core activists are very much aware of the climate issue, even if MOT doesn't write much about it.

              Just as a for instance:  while both Cris Hedges and Naomi Klein, both well known supporters of OWS, focus on political and economic matters, they both have stated that the single most important issue facing us today is climate change.

              It seems to me that their focus, however, is on the political challenge of getting power to address the issue.

              A second for instance:  the early organizers are Anarchists, most of whom have no problem with the idea of lots of people not working at all, and still having their basic needs met.  Their not adherents to the Protestant work ethic which basically says your moral worth shall be measured in how hard you work in the ways authority dictates.

              There are other for instances too, bur think this shoul at least indicate that maybe your impression isn't quite accurate.

        •  gulfgal98, you wrote.... (22+ / 0-)
          On a personal note, as a retired land use planner who worked over 30 years in the public sector, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I and my fellow planners butted heads with the elected officials over growth.  Many elected officials feel that in order for a community to continue the flow of tax dollars, they must continue to grow.  In the minds of the decision makers, growth = economic development.
          I too question this mindset. I live in a city in Ontario OBSESSED with growth. And yet the city can barely keep up with the maintenance of what they already have.

          We have homes in one area that if it rains hard basements flood with sewage...We have 100 year old water pipes that are always breaking down. We have roads that may as well be gravel.

          And yet the City Counsel is constantly wanting to do things like build new statiums, yet we have a lot of people on waiting lists for affordable housing...those wait lists are anywere from 5 - 10 YEARS....

          It's nuts... Let's take care of what we already have rather than add more and more to our plate.

           

          "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

          by SaraBeth on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:05:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  As marketing manager for a very successful (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zett, NoMoreLies

          multi-national corporation, I read Limits To Growth when it was first published.  Like most large corporations, we had a framework of objectives that guided our work.  One was a "5% annual rate of growth".  So I, being of a type who passes up every opportunity to keep my mouth shut, began spouting all kinds of stats from the book to my colleagues.  Didn't win many friends with that.  Was eventually fired.

      •  No matter what Ross believes, he's (7+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        srkp23, barath, SaraBeth, SolarMom, elwior, DawnN, zett

        calling for a new paradigm that puts the little guy back in charge. In such a political reality, limiting or even reversing growth is much more possible.

        "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

        by Lily O Lady on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:25:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Doubtful (0+ / 0-)

          I am not sure at all that I buy this.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:12:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you think that the situation (0+ / 0-)

            is hopeless for the little guy or do you not trust Ross's intent or philosophy?

            "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

            by Lily O Lady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:48:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I do not believe that empowering the... (0+ / 0-)

              ...little guy will address resource depletion issues, in all likelihood it will either do nothing or exacerbate them.

              Not that it may not be a good idea for other reasons.

              (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
              Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

              by Sparhawk on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:19:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  People became environmentally concious (0+ / 0-)

                in the 60s and as a result the EPA was born. Horribly polluted rivers, streams and lakes were cleaned up as a result and air pollution was greatly reduced. If we can raise public conciousness again, then empowing the little guy can work! Right now we're being innundated by propaganda courtesy of the Kochs and others. If we can find a way to counter that, then I believe there is hope.

                "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

                by Lily O Lady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:26:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  I found the book (15+ / 0-)

    Six Degrees is very convincing.

    Amazon.com: Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet ...
    www.amazon.com › ... › Science & Math › Earth Sciences › Climatology
     Rating: 4.5 - 36 reviews - $16.48 - In stock
    Book Description. Publication Date: January 22, 2008. Possibly the most graphic treatment of global warming that has yet been published, Six Degrees is what ...
    It made extremely interesting, albeit frightening reading.  Published in 2008, four years ago, and we are that much closer to chaos.

    Democrats - We represent America!

    by phonegery on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:53:54 AM PDT

  •  Usury is what McKibben and others fail to address. (36+ / 0-)

    Margrit Kennedy has calculated that fully 40 percent of the economy is now diverted to paying the costs of usury and economic rent seeking by the banksters and entrenched economic interests such as big pharma, and big oil.

    This has HUGE implications for what our real problem is. To understand this, we have to step back a bit. Theoretically, there really are no limits to growth: the sun's energy verges on infinite for the next few million years. What IS limited is our use of energy in our current mode of technology. The real problem we face is one of science and technology: how do we harness the sun's energy in ever more efficient and less environmentally damaging ways? This is an engineering problem, first and foremost. Our failure - what is causing us to destroy the planet - has been a failure of political economy: rather than assign the importance and prestige required to science and engineering, we have allowed Wall Street and the banksters to arrogate it to themselves. More importantly, we have allowed Wall Street and the banksters to warp the financial, banking, and monetary systems so that usury and rent seeking economic behavior reap the greatest rewards and are favored by government tax policies, while the absolutely crucial engineering problem of moving away from burning fossil fuels is literally starved for funds and attention.

    Our best and brightest minds have been drawn to Wall Street to devise and trade ever more complex - and meaningless - derivatives of financial activity. We have more MBAs than engineers at this point, and are graduating more MBS than engineers every year. No society can waste half a century with such dramatically wrong priorities and not pay a huge, fearful cost. This is pretty basically the sort of stuff Biblical prophets based their dire warnings on.

    Concentrations of wealth naturally seek to preserve those arrangements of political economy under which that wealth was accumulated. This is known in economics terminology as rent-seeking behavior.

    But the cost of allowing rent-seeking behavior are fearfully steep, because it prevents an economy from changing fast enough to overcome the natural limitations on resources imposed by the natural environment. Entrenched economic interests defending their sources of wealth inevitably cripple the innovative abilities of an economy. And if an economy cannot innovate, it will run up against its environment’s resource limitations.

    However, preserving old arrangements of political economy often means also preserving the technological modes of production and transportation. But preserving the technological modes of production and transportation is exactly the worst thing an economy can do, because it guarantees there will be a calamitous reckoning with limitations of natural resources and the environment.

    In Collapse, Jared Diamond, writes about what happens when a society runs into the natural resource constraints of its environment. Armageddon is an appropriate term. But what Diamond fails to discuss is how the development of new scientific and technological knowledge enables a society to avoid Armageddon by expanding what are considered resources, or developing more efficient means of extracting and using resources, or recycling resources. To avoid Armageddon, society must prevent concentrations of wealth from seeking to preserve a particular mode of technology. Today, of course, we are stuck in a technological mode catering to the internal combustion engine, and we have concentrations of wealth funding a political movement that is blocking the natural development of political economy and its technological development: “drill, baby, drill.” These arrangements present a fundamental threat to the existence of the republic.

    Can we limit the free speech of rich people? We already limit the free speech of professional military officers, because it had been long taught that a standing army is a fundamental threat to free government. What has not been also taught, for a very long time, is that concentrated wealth is also a fundamental threat to a republic. The way in which science and technology have been prevented from the proper focus on our environmental limits, and finding solutions for them, is a clear example of how the wealthy become a threat to the existence of the republic and its citizens.

    It is precisely this issue of environmental destruction that is going to force us the answer these questions.

    A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

    by NBBooks on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:03:50 AM PDT

    •  Redistribution, too (11+ / 0-)

      Putting limits on growth forces us to confront the issue of the distribution of wealth. And that is why pro-growth policies and political arguments are so appealing to those forces that oppose any kind of redistribution.

      Growth becomes the only hope for a way out of poverty for most of the world's population.

      Those of us who desire to limit growth must provide arguments that appeal the the have-nots, and paint an appealing vision of a world of limited growth in energy use and population.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:05:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not desire limit to growth... (21+ / 0-)

        I think the crucial point McKibben is making is that it's not that he desires a limit to growth---he's pointing out that it's reality, whether anyone likes it or not.  And that pursuing it further is a counterproductive exercise in futility.

        Growth is most definitely not the only hope for those in poverty, and he actually devotes a section of his book to exactly this topic.  But going back a few decades, E.F. Schumacher described how there are places in the so-called developing world (I don't like the term, because it implies that our industrial society is somehow more "developed") that are materially poor in the measures the industrial world uses and yet are well off in many other ways.  The Indian state of Kerala is an example: high levels of education, health, and general well-being, but very little in the way of industry.

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:11:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We are not going to have to do anything... (6+ / 0-)

        to convince anyone of anything, for the simple reason that we are not going to have any real control over the coming decline.

        Between Climate Change and Peak Oil/Resources, we are all, the Have Nots, the Haves, and the Have Mores, are all going to be in the same boat.

        Money and "stuff" are not going to be worth much when one is hungry or thirsty because the aquifers have dried up and the droughts hit our fertile land. Or the food cannot be grown, harvested, prepared/packaged, and shipped to our nearest MegaStore because there is limited fuel to do so.

        In fact, I submit the "poor" will be the new rich because none of this will be new to them. They already know how to survive with little. The Haves and Have Mores are going to be lost without their lattes and MTV.

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

        by SaraBeth on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:31:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  rent seeking is very popular with the powers that (10+ / 0-)

      be and so far will be very difficult to stop.

      excellent comment.

      big badda boom : GRB 080913

      by squarewheel on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:08:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There *are* effective limits to human population (6+ / 0-)

      because people can't eat photons or electricity. We are limited by our physiology and the physiology of plants. We aren't limited by our ability to message each other on the Internet, but by water resources and agriculture -- both under assault from global warming.

      The obscenities of the rich are the driving factor of our politics today. But the underlying biophysical reality -- the real real world -- is that there are already way too many humans on this planet for sustainability, and that there will be many fewer humans on Earth in the future.

      •  You're wrong about that. (0+ / 0-)
        But the underlying biophysical reality -- the real real world -- is that there are already way too many humans on this planet for sustainability...
        Simply untrue. The issue is not one of the number of people on the planet. The issue is lifestyles.

        There are too many people consuming too much. You can solve that problem by having fewer people OR by having the people who are here use up fewer resources.

        Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

        by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:42:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  except for one thing: (8+ / 0-)

      "Theoretically, there really are no limits to growth: the sun's energy verges on infinite for the next few million years."

      Earth is still a finite sphere, and like it or not, you can't map an infinite plane onto a Euclidean solid.

      There are no limits to growth in space.  We could expand to the Moon, to Mars, and then to various artificial habitats built out of converted space-rocks.  But every single one of these is finite, and has its own limits to growth.  

      At the present rate of population growth on Earth, to export the overpopulation would require the equivalent of two or three full 747s departing Earth for "somewhere else" every hour.  

      Really now: will we ever be able to build habitat on the Moon or Mars or floating in space, at that rate?  

      The answer to a dangerous addiction isn't to find a bigger supply of the drug, it's to quit, cold-turkey.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:50:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  USURY is part of the problem. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59, expatjourno, NoMoreLies

      Usury is a very important aspect on both local and global scales (for millennia they have been inseparable), but I think the more fundamental concepts are CONSUMPTION, LIMITS and DISTRIBUTION or SHARING.

      I will elaborate to the main thread, but USURY will be part.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:04:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's an incredible comment. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies

      I wish I'd seen it earlier so I could rec it. I hope you diary it.

      Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

      by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:35:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Useless to Write Out Lists of What We Should Do. (12+ / 0-)

    We don't have the power or authority to do anything differently. Those who do have made it plain to us they're committed to accelerating the problem.

    That is all our political leadership, and all our economic leadership.

    It doesn't matter whether we're talking about atmospheric carbon or social security, what we need to do is find a way to do ANYTHING.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:06:24 AM PDT

    •  Bottom up (19+ / 0-)

      True, and I despair about that from time to time.

      But McKibben, Heinberg, and others are right to point out that this change is going to happen from the bottom up if for no other reason than the institutions that exist only know how to do one thing: growth.  It's baked in.  As that crumbles, we need to have something that we built bottom up, from the local level, to stand in its place.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:09:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah that's the problem (15+ / 0-)

        There's currently no room for this discussion at the national level; growth is a holy grail and any other discussion would be dismissed without due consideration.

        I've been reading Heinberg's latest (The End of Growth) and he makes a convincing case that growth isn't coming back, as we're hitting resource constraints on oil and some other crucial commodities as well.

        It's worth paying closer attention to the Transition movement, as relocalizing is going to be the only answer in not too many years.

        Very nice summary, barath.

        “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” -- FDR, 1936

        by SolarMom on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:22:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Time is the issue. We're out of it. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, NoMoreLies

        And I think that we as a society are likely to wake uup to the need to massively rebuild all our infrastructure, just precisely at the point when we no longer have the resources to do so.

      •  We're a declining empire; and that decline (0+ / 0-)

        may actually benefit the Eaarth and its other inhabitants, as we may use fewer resources and certainly will have less power in the long term to war on the other peoples of Eaarth.  Perhaps the structures that emerge from the ruins of our empire will be more forgiving to our ecosystem.  Chris Hedges' idea of "monastic communities," not in the religious and celibate sense but in the self-sustaining and local one, hold promise.

        But, China is an ascending empire, in many ways; and we have very little influence on what happens there.  We can only hope that the Chinese government has a long-term plan to achieve a steady-state economy.

    •  Did you read this: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett

      "He goes on to make the case that we need more small businesses, small farms, small energy providers, small banks, rather than the too big to fail institutions we have across the board.  As he puts it, we need the Fortune 500,000, not the Fortune 500. "

      I don't think you can absolve yourself of personal responsibility just because corporations and big banks suck and have bought our government. I share your cynicism in that regard, but you do have choices. Yeah, they may not solve the problem singlehandedly, but they exist, and you should try to make the right ones.

  •  an excellent review (7+ / 0-)

    thank you.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:07:05 AM PDT

  •  Thanks very much for this. That's been my take on (9+ / 0-)

    the situation for awhile.  But, no one wants to hear it.  Dinosaurs were on the planet for 135 million years.  Modern humans have been here about 200,000 years.  It's starting to look like dinosaurs will beat us by millions of years for time on the planet.  I'm beginning to think humans are dumber than dinosaurs.

  •  tx, barath, for this important diary (11+ / 0-)

    allow me to quote a comment I made a few days ago, which I believe is ad rem.

    "Planned Obsolescence" MUST BE ADDRESSED!
    That is a major part of the waste of our resources on our planet from every level.  Not to mention creating mountains of waste itself.

    from Wiki:

    Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence[1] in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time.[1] Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence.[1]
    In some cases, deliberate deprecation of earlier versions of a technology is used to reduce ongoing support costs, especially in the software industry. Though this could be considered planned obsolescence, it differs from the classic form in that the consumer is typically made aware of the limited support lifetime of the product as part of their licensing agreement.

    For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product. Built-in obsolescence is used in many different products. There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative.

    and in complete agreement w/BMK on the:
    Durable
    Sturdy
    Stable
    Hardy
    Robust
    another comment I made regarding this situation.  We have got to start and to start quickly.
    imo, the solution is to encourage manufacturers to make items of quality, that last and that can be repaired.  Simple.

    That used to be the standard.  Its the drive for greedy profit, profit, profit that changed that mode.

    Now we are stuck with mountains of cheap, made to break crap.  Longevity used to be a pride in manufacture.  Now we are asked to buy 'warranties' for products for one or two years!!!!!!  WTF?  Just another rip off.

    However, this will require a restructuring on the economic system.  Or some bright entrepreneur can start promoting his/her products as durable, repairable, made from non-toxic substances and green because it respects the limitations of the resources of this planet.

    I would gladly pay a couple of more dollars for this type of product.

    I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

    by SeaTurtle on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:10:23 AM PDT

    •  The easiest place to start: don't replace things (11+ / 0-)

      I know it's easier said than done, but I've been making it work in my own life more or less.  We got a good blender a few years ago but it broke when we were moving it and I'm going to get it repaired rather than replacing it.  Same goes for my shoes which are worn-out sneakers, but I'm sure they're fixable.  My computer screen is currently sort of busted (big line down the middle), but I've decided to live with it for now and fix it myself if I have to.  And I've managed to avoid getting a smartphone so far, and will avoid it unless my current phone breaks and I can't get it fixed.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:16:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. In all my purchases I am seeking (6+ / 0-)

        out the durable, repairable, etc.

        I firmly believe in this.

        I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

        by SeaTurtle on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:20:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  old stuff (14+ / 0-)

        My husband bought a gorgeous old waffle iron at a flea market. It's probably from the 1950s and it works great. He did replace the cord. But this thing will still be making great waffles when my grandkids are grandparents. I compare it to the flimsy piece of junk that was our last waffle maker which lasted maybe nine months before the hinge broke. I tell ya, flea markets are the way to go for almost everything.

        •  This is a good point. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          expatjourno, NoMoreLies

          My wife and I like to go to antique stores and look for functional stuff. We replaced our coffee maker (like the 5th one we have bought in 25 years) with an old Pyrex percolator from the 1950's. Works great. We've also bought old brass lawn sprinklers that are at least 60 years old and still outperform the new plastic junk that costs twice as much. We've found lots of vintage lawn/garden tools that work great and are virtually indestructable. I'm just so tired of buying plastic crap from China.

          I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

          by itsjim on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:52:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Look for manual use tools too; (7+ / 0-)

        such as a manual mixer, or what used to be called an egg beater. Or a manual drill, or even pedal power sewing machines.

        Anything human powered will be well worth it in the future I think.

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

        by SaraBeth on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:41:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good in theory, can be problematic (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, SaraBeth

          for people with joint or strength issues.

          •  I agree.... (0+ / 0-)

            however if we have limited power, we will have to use human-powered tools at least some of the time. Those tools were around and useful long before electricity became the norm...and people had limitations then too.

            "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

            by SaraBeth on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:28:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's why families and communities work. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cai, Bronx59, NoMoreLies

            Or did.

            Not everyone does everything for themselves, ever. Civilization was based on the principle of shared interests, burdens and benefits, and the practical benefits of sharing and specialization.

            We need to examine how far we have strayed from those principles traditionally embodied in nuclear and extended families, and communities, and re-tool the concepts for a more modern world where people place a higher value on autonomy, freedom and (selfish) consumption as long as they can get away with it.

            But it's not working so hot, right?

            Before the industrial revolution, the majority of people in the world never traveled further than they could walk or ride on the back of a beast, or row or sail on a boat, had much fewer options in life and a lot less stuff.

            In a very profound way, industrialization and transportation disrupted the system that evolved and created a new system that gave people more mobility, freedom and choice, but at the expense of undervaluing resources to the point we have over-consumed ourselves into, literally, a modern sewage pit of a planet.

            Since we are not going trade off that freedom, mobility and prosperity willingly, we have to trade-off a bit of ownership and personal autonomy to retool communities for a bit more sharing and reframe the concept of family and community.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:42:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  a lack of money has forced those kind of choices (8+ / 0-)

        on me almost my whole life, and right now of the five pairs of pants,numerous shirts, socks, and T shirts I own, only three pairs of pants were bought new a year ago (at the cheapest place I could find).
        All the shirts (probably six) I have are from garage sales, or second hand stores, just like the socks and basically everything else I own.
        This includes all the books, pictures, throw rugs, towels, kitchen ware and the chair in which I now sit typing this... on a computer that has no original parts.

        Looking around this room the only exception to this are thirty-five houseplants in this little apartment, all of which I have nourished from small cuttings to big plants over the last seven years.

        Fwiw I also live in an old building (1890), with a great view and even tho I get food stamps and hit the Food Bank a few times each month, I feel like I have a good life. I wish I had a vehicle I could trust on an extended basis, but mine does start (almost) everytime and thru craigslist I found a free tire (which I had put on yesterday) to replace the one with big cracks on the side (the valve stem came off in the guys hand at the Station).
        So I have always lived 'on the cheap' and the very few times I saw any chunk of money (< $3,000) I still couldn't bring myself to buy 'new' things.

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 01:03:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  fixing stuff: one small fan for a man... (4+ / 0-)

      .... one less piece of stuff in a landfill for mankind.

      I have a small inexpensive fan I use to clear steam out of the bathroom after showers.  The other day it just quit on me, as in, stopped dead, and a quick check disclosed that the rotor would barely turn.

      OK, so I'm used to fixing electromechanical stuff, this should be easy.

      First I take it apart on the workbench, oil the bushings at each end of the motor shaft ...no go.  

      Next, disassemble the motor itself.  This particular style of motor is easy enough to take apart: remove two screws to get it free, remove two more screws to take off the bushings.  A close inspection disclosed a little dust, nothing special.  

      Reassemble motor, test, and it's still more or less stuck, taking a manual twirl to get it moving.  

      Disassemble again, oil the inside of the bushings, reassemble.  Bingo!  Also discover along the way that over-tightening the screws that hold the bushings on either side of the motor, tends to bind the shaft just a bit, so back off one screw slightly, and it all turns smoothly.  

      Reassemble & test.

      Works like new again.

      The moral of the story is, even cheap stuff can be kept working if you're willing to spend a little effort at it.  

      The simplest way to fix most small appliances is to take them apart, clean all the working surfaces, lubricate any moving parts, reassemble & test, done.  Exception: components that are exposed to heat, where one has to be very careful of flammable lubricants.

      The thing that foils repair attempts is when something is so micro-miniaturized that it has to be assembled by robots and is too small to be fixed by humans with hand tools.  Most of our computer hardware falls into that category today: at least laptops and other portable devices.  

      But the second thing that foils repair attempts is the assumption that things can't be repaired.  I refuse to live with that assumption, so I spend a half hour fixing a fan that could be replaced for $10.  But it's not going to the landfill, and that's worth something.

      Maintenance hint for fans, as we go into a hot summer:

      Occasionally give the blade a twirl by hand, or notice how quickly it coasts to a stop when the motor is turned off.  It should move easily and spin for a little while before coasting to a stop.  If you see it getting sluggish, or it takes effort to turn, it's time to lubricate the motor bushings.  A tiny droplet of 3-in-1 oil at each end of the shaft is sufficient in most cases.  Before oiling anything ,vacuum out the dust.  And if you have to disassemble anything, make notes and mark the components to make it easier to put it all back together normally.  

      Except for the hottest climates, a simple fan that uses 10 - 60 watts, can often take the place of an air conditioner that might be using 150 - 300 watts or more.  Multiply by hours a day and you can take a measurable slice off your electric bill this way, not to mention reducing your carbon footprint a little, and every bit counts.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 07:58:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You and me, buddy. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zett

        We have 2 fans that cover most of our needs for moving air:

        - cooling our bodies
        - drying out clothes*
        - ventilating the home when the air is still.

        * Hanging wet clothes and drying them with a fan is actually faster than using a tumble dryer, even in the humid climate I live in, and makes a great ad hoc evaporative chiller.

        Add to that some warm clothes, blankets and a hot water bottle, and you can crank down the heater in winter too.

        Dude ... 150-300W air conditioners? Really? Most I have ever seen are more like 1,500 or 3,000.

        By the way, we do have an aircon we use when the temps go above 36C, but if you close off rooms, set it at 30C and run an oscillating fan to move the air, a little goes a long way.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:53:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This may turn some Democrats against him. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy
  •  Thanks for the diary (9+ / 0-)

    and all the reference material. People are starting to wake up to this issue. Change has to come from the bottom up. I must admit that this is an exciting time to be alive. After 70 years on the planet I hope to live long enough to see us move in a sustainable direction. I hope this crises will bring out the best in humans not the worst.

  •  Paul Gilding, colleague of McKibben (13+ / 0-)

    Was a featured speaker on the opening of this years TED talks.

  •  capitalism is dead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, mightymouse

    long live the end of growth

    for terminology

    i nominate a durable world with steadily growing sturdy people and products.

    Donate to Occupy Wall Street here: http://nycga.cc/donate/

    by BlueDragon on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:29:53 AM PDT

  •  the cult of permagrowth (7+ / 0-)

    is a suicide cult

    "I'll hold my nose and vote but I won't hold my nose and canvass or call or donate." Some Dkos Comment

    by onemadson on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:33:18 AM PDT

  •  Infinite growth on a finite planet (6+ / 0-)

    These excerpts are from http://steadystate.org.

    Mainstream economists argue that a constant rate of GDP growth is desirable. In other words, monetary exchanges are supposed to grow exponentially and forever on a finite planet. This is only possible if an increasingly small component of GDP growth relates to physical impacts (i.e., a smaller and smaller number of activities that add to GDP produce any environmental impact). Otherwise the physical impact of our economies will grow exponentially too — a truly impossible scenario. You cannot have an infinite number of people dancing on the head of a pin! Unlike angels, people are corporeal beings.

    The above scenario — an ever smaller fraction of GDP representing physical impacts — is referred to by economists as decoupling. It is the only way to justify a system predicated on the assumption of continuous GDP growth on a finite planet.


    As exponential growth continues, you would be able to buy all the productive land and natural resources of the planet for the price of a massage! This is clearly absurd — the productive parts of the economy are the physical basis for all the “fluff” that rests atop it. The “real” will never be valued as low as just 1% or less of total GDP. Moreover there is no legitimate planning effort even to make this absurdity happen. Things are very much left to their own devices. The idea of “absolute decoupling” is more a kind of special pleading to justify the economic status quo, rather than something we are acting decisively to achieve.
    •  I should add (7+ / 0-)

      I believe what we are seeing in that the financial industry is growing faster than most other industries is symptomatic of the myth of infinite growth, it's a fluff industry. It really contributes nothing but is merely activity for the sake of activity (and destructive to boot).

    •  Daly's Steady-state economics (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SolarMom, G2geek, drnononono, joanil, basquebob

      Is one of the best models for what to replace our current growth-based system with.  (I've written a post about Daly's ideas and we also interviewed him.)

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:40:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, yes, yes! Daly spotted this early on; and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joanil

        Kenneth Boulding also wrote some very easily digestible stuff on steady state economics, including The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth, in which he proposed moving from the "cowboy economy" to the "spaceman economy."

        The Club of Rome has been proven right, time and again, over the last 30 years.  

    •  which eventually leads to the monetization of... (9+ / 0-)

      ... everything.

      Consider copyright fascism as an example.  

      Thirty years ago you bought an album and made five copies on cassettes.  With Dolby noise reduction and CrO2 tapes, the copies were as good as FM radio.  You gave the five copies to your friends, three of them ended up buying the album and two decided they didn't like it and recycled the cassettes.

      The record companies for their part, accepted the situation and were glad it led to additional album sales.

      Today, the digital equivalent of that will get you a half million dollar fine.  Because every single transaction "has to" be captured and monetized and controlled, otherwise the growth model breaks.

      Prediction:  EULAs on sugar.

      Knock knock!

      "Howdy neighbor, I'm baking a birthday cake for my son and I realized I'm out of sugar.  Can I borrow a couple of cups?"

      "Uh, sorry, neighbor.  The End User License Agreement on my sugar says this sugar to be used only by the household of the original purchaser, all other uses will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  I would if I could, but we're still paying the fines from when our daughter was caught singing a pop song on the street: public performance violation."

      "Never mind, we'll serve bread and water at the birthday party."

      "Great idea!, that'll prepare the kids for real life when they're grown up!"

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:00:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Have you ever read the work (14+ / 0-)

    of E.F. Schumacher?  His book Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered is a fascinating read all about this same subject... And how we could live good and satisfying lives without the runaway growth we have today.

    I have always wondered towards WHAT are we as a society growing? For what purpose other than just more stress, more stuff, and more craziness. No one is truly happy....we haven't the time to be happy. We are always running....with no end in sight.

    The quote in my signature is particularly apt for this discussion.

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

    by SaraBeth on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 11:56:54 AM PDT

    •  Definitely, it's a classic (6+ / 0-)

      I should have mentioned it in my comment above.  I think Daly, Schumacher, and Meadows were the three authors who really issued the first warning to society in the 1970s that we were on the wrong course.  And for a while I guess people were listening.  (All before my time, so this is second-hand.)

      From Reagan all the way through Bush II nobody bothered to stop to think about what course society was on.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:00:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ...and Paul Hawken, who read Shumacher and applied (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy, basquebob, SaraBeth

        his theories to business practice. In the early Eighties, Hawken wrote "The Next Economy" which predicted a wave of "disintermediation" (elimination of the middle-man) and consumer rejection of cheap, short-lived, virtually-disposable goods... Quality instead of Quantity.

        To test his theories, Hawken founded a mail order business, "Smith & Hawken" which sold expensive, well-made, traditional English garden tools whose designs have been honed by time. It's debatable whether his customers were long-term thinkers in search of  economic value, or microchip yuppies trying to purchase a sense of personal authenticity from a previous age.

        Either way, the business did not survive the tsunami of cheap Chinese knock-offs that engulfed the western world, but Hawken's theories were realized by the internet economy.

        Hawken's 1993 book, "The Ecology of Commerce" did not deal directly with climate change and growth, but more with concepts of ecological balance. He proposed the radical idea that all manufactured products should fully recyclable with no residue other than water and dirt. Japanese automakers are now building prototypes of cars that include decommissioning and salvage at the end of the vehicle's useful life.

        The 1999 book, "Natural Capitalism" was written with Amory and Hunter Lovins. It addressed energy issues and limits to growth directly, and promoted the ideas of "natural capital" and "ecosystem services" as economic concepts.

        Have you noticed?
        Politicians who promise LESS government
        only deliver BAD government.

        by jjohnjj on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:51:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  been there, done that, know how: Bell Telephone. (6+ / 0-)

          The entire infrastructure of the Bell Telephone System was designed based on 40-year product lifespans, repair rather than replacement, and recycling of raw materials.

          Something I use to make the point, is a Bell telephone that was issued in the 1980s: if you take it apart you find components in it dating from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s: each time it went through the workshop to be reconditioned and re-issued to someone.  I have another one with parts dated from 1937 through the 1950s.  Same deal.   This was done universally until "deregulation" broke it up.  

          We had that, and it worked perfectly.

          Then we broke it for the sake of "shiny and new."

          And today the average cellphone is in service for 18 months and then goes to the landfill.  And people avoid having long phone conversations now, because cellphone audio sucks, as in, pre-1928 audio quality.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:07:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies

            Though the main reason for replacing cell phones is increased functionality, not durability. I'm sure this is by design. One reason the old phones lasted so long is that they were designed for one thing: phone calls. There was really no functional reason to replace them.

            I find it frustratingly ironic that contemporary phones seem to work great for everything but phone calls.

            I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

            by itsjim on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:40:35 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  The anti-growth agenda is already in action. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, happymisanthropy, BigOkie

    ‘Bipartisan’ government policy is already sending as much money as possible to the top, by design, to stifle growth in the general economy, reduce public consumption etc. They know what it takes to create jobs (more money in consumers’ pockets) and they’re intentionally doing the exact opposite of that.
    The anti-growth agenda is already in action because we're running out of fossil fuels. They wouldn’t be building a trillion-dollar pipeline to ship in the hardest-to-refine-shit-in-the-world (tar sands) if there was still plenty of oil. To sustain the levels of growth to which we’re accustomed would require a serious expansion in the development of renewable energy, an expansion that would reduce the market share (and the political power) of conventional energy. That’s not going to happen. Conventional energy will not give up its political power by accepting the reduction in market share that would occur with a serious expansion in the development of renewable energy.
    We’re headed for an ugly and painful economic slowdown, to preserve and protect the political power of conventional energy (administered by a political system that is protecting the market share of conventional energy by blocking necessary expansions in the development of renewable energy). If you’re looking for a root cause, it’s the current political system in which money = speech.

    •  Not sure I agree with that last part (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      squarewheel, SaraBeth, pat bunny, G2geek

      The root cause here is much deeper than money=speech---it's that the entire economic paradigm for the last few hundred years is premised on the idea of an expanding economy, with greater material consumption.  That's an idea that's been subscribed to by and large on both the left and the right, for a long long time.  (FDR after all was one of the greatest boosters of growth we've had as a president.)

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:02:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No more extra children (7+ / 0-)

    Population growth would have to stop.  It already has in many places.  But at the end of the day population must stop growing for growth to stop.  That requires resources and equity

    •  Actually needs to shrink (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ree Zen, G2geek

      Alan Weisman's The World Without Us makes a powerful case that the carrying capacity of the planet is probably somewhere around 1.5 billion -- or about 1/5 of the current population. Some of this will likely happen on its own, through reduced fertility and increased disease and death (wars, droughts, you name it). Decisions that at least don't reward large families would also help.

    •  I wish people would stop mentioning this... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mindful Nature

      ... as a goal in itself.

      If you get societies to educate women, to let them have birth control, population growth stops dead.  

      Nothing else, not starvation nor war nor forcible sterilization programs nor genocide, works, at all.

      If you make "stopping population growth" a goal, two things happen: First, even reasonable people hate you, a lot, for arguing in favor of the direct methods of reducing population, war, murder, all like that. Second, if you have a brain to work with, you find yourself working to educate women.

      Don't say that the goal is "reducing population." Say that the goal is educating women, and giving them liberty.

      •  Educating women (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        profundo

        Is indeed the number one environmental action one can take.

        However, except for religious radicals, I wish people wouldn't hate us for arguing for family planning (which would be my approach.   A slow population decline could work.  Maybe

        Still, you raise very good points

        •  this we will see (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mindful Nature

          slow population declines, or not so slow ones, are comin our way in Europe. Its been seen as a problem because the social security systems were built under circumstances of a growing population where there would alwas be more young ones working who could pay for the naturally dwindling old ones. Now we get the situation that the population "pyramid" has inverted, as it were, our indigenous population coupled with increased pension age lifespans would mean that rather few working young ones would have to pay for rather more old ones.

          child per woman are as low as 1.3 in Italy I have heard - thats extreme off course - but well below equilibrium level in most countries.

          essentially in todays Europe these two tendencies are battling each other - xenophobia, trying to keep immigrants out; and social democrats - trying to get immigrants in, because thats a great way to keep the balance.

          of course immigrants bring a lot more with them than just the capacity to pay into the social net.

  •  Thanks for this diary (7+ / 0-)
    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

                                                           -Edward Abbey

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:06:35 PM PDT

  •  we need the economics of the 24th century (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    but we need them right now.

    big badda boom : GRB 080913

    by squarewheel on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:09:42 PM PDT

  •  It's always been about growth. Please watch (6+ / 0-)

    The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See:

    "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture" -- Thomas Jefferson

    by tommurphy on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 12:23:48 PM PDT

  •  Growth stopped for most Americans a long time ago. (7+ / 0-)

    The real median income of American men (the guy for whom half make more and half less) is now 32% lower than it was at the peak in 1973. What good has all the increase in GDP since then really done? We need smart, responsible, equitable GDP, not more.

  •  Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, forgore

    A short clip on indiscriminate exponential growth (8 min):

    https://www.youtube.com/...

  •  Tanstaafl. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, Ree Zen, G2geek, basquebob
    Durable
    Sturdy
    Stable
    Hardy
    Robust
    There's another word that encompasses all of these:
    Quality

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 02:41:57 PM PDT

  •  Maybe at some point he'll fess up (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, marsanges

    and admit that capitalism must go.

    "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless/ And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all" -- Bruce Cockburn

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:30:15 PM PDT

    •  Really. Bottom line is, socialism or extinction. (5+ / 0-)

      Capitalism is not free enterprise.  Capitalism is a system whereby economic profit accrues to capital, and economic decisions are made by capital.  

      And it depends absolutely upon growth: profit on equity and interest on debt require growth.   Take away growth and the rest of it stops dead.

      One can build a steady-state (no-growth) economy while maintaining freedom of enterprise for private sector activity.  But that means a thriving small business sector, which is not the same thing as capitalism.  Under the thriving small business sector would be a socialist economy for finance and for raw materials and energy resources.

      Either we're going to do that or we are going to spiral down the drain and back to the caves, if we're lucky.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:13:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why I don't like the word 'sustainability.' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WheninRome

    I suppose it’s some sort of progress that sustainability is a word/concept that has made it into widespread public acknowledgement. That said, sustainability as practiced in the US today almost never meets a common sense definition of sustainable.

    Sustainable means you can keep doing it indefinitely into the future. Most of what gets billed as sustainable is, in reality, some method of doing something that is just slightly less destructive or consumptive than the conventional way of doing it. A building that consumes 50% less energy than one that meets the bare minimums of a state energy code represents exemplary efficiency. The operation of such a building is still nowhere near “sustainable.”

    A couple of years ago I wrote a white paper on net zero energy buildings for a client. Net zero means that on a net basis, a grid-tied building runs on 100% renewable energy. I found that you could type up a list of every net zero energy commercial building in the country and it would fit on three single-spaced pages. There are some people out there doing admirable work but in the context of the whole US economy, real sustainability is still an entirely esoteric pursuit.

    My personal opinion: fossil fuel energy is still way too cheap. Externalities, e.g.: climate change, aren’t included in the cost and won’t be until government steps in and institutes a carbon tax that brings in externalities and creates a true price for fossil fuels. Judging by the deeply flawed decisions I see made by many of my clients time and again when it comes to investment in energy efficiency the market signals and financial incentives just aren’t getting through to them.

    One great example of what I’m talking about: A client says they want their facilities designed for an 80-year life cycle, which is pretty damned high. It's an admirable committment to quality. Two weeks later they say they don’t want to pay the higher initial cost on some more efficient HVAC equipment that offers simple payback with energy savings in under three years! The reason why? The Budget Shall Not Rise.

    What does that tell you about where investment in energy efficiency fits in their corporate values? It tells me that going over the construction budget will be punished, but wasting energy/money later on when no one is looking won't be. In a sane world where the right incentives existed, your boss would be more pissed off about the wasted energy/money - and that's what you would be afraid of.  

    On the bright side, that piece of HVAC equipment will last maybe 20 years and not 80, like the rest of the building. They will only have to wait the 20 for a second chance to make a smart decision.  

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:38:58 PM PDT

    •  yes, but it's such a nice euphemism. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob

      I don't care what we call it, and the more palatable the euphemism the better if it works in the right direction.

      As for shortsighted, I see examples of that all the time, in the form of low-ball bidders getting the jobs for voice & data wiring in offices.  

      Know what?  CEO and other senior management jobs at publicly-traded companies ought to be put out to competitive bid.  Lowest qualified bidder gets the job.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:16:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Define growth. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man, Odysseus, koNko

    Because nothing here suggests that "growth" is a problem at all. The problem is what we are growing.

    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

    by expatjourno on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:06:33 PM PDT

    •  continued increase in anything. (0+ / 0-)

      And continued increase in anything except knowledge (information doesn't care about thermodynamics) is impossible on a finite planet.

      Find a way to map an infinite plane onto a Euclidean solid and I'll get you nominated for a Nobel.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:18:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, that just wouldn't be true. (0+ / 0-)

        A million dollars of physical therapy, or theatrical productions adds just as much to GDP as a million dollars worth of steel. 100 million dollars worth of organic vegetables add less greenhouse gas than a million dollars worth of beef.

        "Growth" is not the problem. The problem is what we are growing.

        Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

        by expatjourno on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:57:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  so let's see what happens when we do that: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kamarvt, koNko, katiec

          Assume that nothing requiring physical resource extraction grows, at all.

          Now all the services industries have to bear the burden of sustaining a growth rate.

          So the physical therapy (PT) industry is expected to grow, grow, grow.

          And per your example, organic veggies are expected to do likewise.

          Soon, everyone who can possibly receive PT is doing so, and the growth curve levels off.  And everyone is eating organic veggies three times a day, and that growth curve levels off too.

          Once the market is saturated for PT and organic veggies, what do you do?

          If you're trying to maintain growth, you have to find a way.

          So the PT Protective Association gets together with legislators and passes a bill whereby all forms of massage and exercise are to be considered PT, and administered by a licensed physical therapist.

          Uh-oh, now every high school sports team has to hire a licensed physical therapist to "properly administer" calisthenics at the beginning of each sports practice.  Occasionally a coach tries to "sneak around the rules" and gets prosecuted, which also helps keep the legal profession on its own growth curve.

          Worse yet, college dorms around final exam time are raided by the feds, and students who are giving each other friendly massages in the dorm halls during their late study sessions, are now facing charges for practicing massage therapy without a physical therapist license!   The news headlines are a-buzz with stories of massage pirates, just as they were a generation ago back in the early 2000s with stories about "music pirates."  

          Meanwhile the Organic Veggies Protective Association is getting cozy with the legislature and getting another bill passed, to use the Interstate Commerce clause to regulate all production and consumption of organic veggies.  Specifically, homeowners and renters are now forbidden to grow vegetables in their gardens, for their own personal consumption, because doing so "has an effect on interstate commerce" by way of reducing the demand for organic veggies grown by "licensed growers."

          So once again, FBI agents pile into their unmarked cars, weary and disheartened from being pulled off bank robbery cases and kidnappings and such, to pursue the new priority of going after pirate gardeners.  They arrive in suburbs across America, bearing warrants to arrest little old ladies for growing a few tomatoes and cucumbers in their back gardens.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't like this any more than you do," they say as they bundle the rebellious little old ladies into the back of their cars.   And once again the headlines are a-buzz with news of the "pirate gardening conspiracy" that has just been "thwarted by diligent law enforcement."

          That is the eventual outcome of the demand for indefinite growth: every transaction, and then every action, as well as every inaction such as "failing" to buy health insurance, becomes monetized, mandated, and subject to prosecution for failing to comply.  

          And if you don't think so, think back to the last time you (or if you're that young, your mom or dad) bought a new album, and made a cassette copy for a friend.  Did you (or they) ever think that cassette would be worth a fine of $25,000 per song?  Could they ever have anticipated that, in their wildest million years?  Even if their friend listened to the cassette once and then went out and bought the album?  

          Don't ever be tempted to say "It can't happen here."  There's a book by that title.  It's highly recommended.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:50:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Great post! Sure would like to send out to.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            every blog out there.

          •  Those are just two examples. (0+ / 0-)
            Once the market is saturated for PT and organic veggies, what do you do?
            You do something else. I think your whole comment is better suited to a science fiction novel than to a rational discussion.

            It's also clear that you do not know the first thing about economics and its terminology:

            Meanwhile the Organic Veggies Protective Association is getting cozy with the legislature and getting another bill passed, to use the Interstate Commerce clause to regulate all production and consumption of organic veggies.  Specifically, homeowners and renters are now forbidden to grow vegetables in their gardens, for their own personal consumption, because doing so "has an effect on interstate commerce" by way of reducing the demand for organic veggies grown by "licensed growers."
            It's economic growth whether the veggies are grown by companies or homeowners. And the economic value of the PT is the same no matter who is providing it.
            That is the eventual outcome of the demand for indefinite growth: every transaction, and then every action, as well as every inaction such as "failing" to buy health insurance, becomes monetized, mandated, and subject to prosecution for failing to comply.
            No, there is no reason to expect ANY of the scenarios you present to take place.

            Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

            by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:28:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  My crystal ball apparently works better... (0+ / 0-)

              .... than yours, and my precog score is apparently better too.

              Here (in no particular order) are a few items I predicted from 10 - 20 years before they came about:

              = Public-key cryptography for the masses.
              = Universal curbside recycling.
              = "Prison chic" as a youth clothing style.
              = Jihadis on the internet.
              = Tracking that links shopping patterns, credit, and insurance.
              = Robotic floor/carpet cleaners (Roomba).
              = Nanotech "tracking dust" for surveillance.
              = "Conscientious objection" as a right-winger tactic.
              = Profit-making television broadcasts from prisons.
              = "The Digital Ghetto" fragmentation of internet users by interests and class.
              = Prisoners subject to coercive pressure for religious conversion.
              = The Moonies gaining major influence in Washington.

              Those are just the ones that come to mind right off the top of my head.  There are probably another dozen or more in my writing, which, yes, does include extensive raw material for a couple of science fiction novels.  Some of them look obvious in retrospect, but at the time they were anything but (yes, even Jihadis on the internet: in the mid 1980s that was science fiction too).  

              And your statement "It's economic growth whether the veggies are grown by companies or homeowners. And the economic value of the PT is the same no matter who is providing it," is in the "not even wrong" category.

              It's only economic growth and economic value if it is transacted in or convertible to money.  

              Aunt Millie growing tomatoes isn't economic growth unless she sells them.  Alice and Bob giving each other a massage to relieve the tension of studying for finals, isn't economic growth unless they pay each other for the service.   If there's no way to measure it, it may as well not have happened.

              Though there's an odd type of dualism here, whereby Aunt Millie's tomatoes don't contribute to economic growth but yet she may be prosecuted for undermining interstate commerce.  That's a development of the legal theory underling the health insurance mandate: that "inaction is transaction."  But contradictions abound, just so long as they serve the needs ("needs") of plutocrats and theocrats.

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:00:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You don't know what GDP is. (0+ / 0-)

                And that's a pretty serious problem for your argument.

                Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

                by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:12:12 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  as a matter of fact I do: (0+ / 0-)

                  The way I phrased it before looking it up was: The total dollar value of goods/services transacted in an economy, operationalized as the total cost of goods/services sold in a year, or total expenditures from incomes.

                  Now strictly speaking that's not exactly right, though it's darn close, per this:

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/...

                  "GDP can be determined in three ways, all of which should, in principle, give the same result. They are the product (or output) approach, the income approach, and the expenditure approach.

                  "The most direct of the three is the product approach, which sums the outputs of every class of enterprise to arrive at the total. The expenditure approach works on the principle that all of the product must be bought by somebody, therefore the value of the total product must be equal to people's total expenditures in buying things. The income approach works on the principle that the incomes of the productive factors ("producers," colloquially) must be equal to the value of their product, and determines GDP by finding the sum of all producers' incomes."

                  That gives you three choices of methods:

                  1)  Total dollar value of the outputs of all enterprises.  (I said "goods/services" which isn't quite the same thing, but close.)

                  2)  Total expenditures in an economy (I got that one, more or less, as "expenditures from income").

                  3)  Total of all incomes in an economy, taken to represent the total value of goods/services (that's the one I missed).

                  Nowhere in any of those methods is there a factor for monetizing "do-it-yourself" projects except as the cost of the materials going into them, for example the seeds for Aunt Millie's tomatoes.  Nowhere is there a factor for personal interactions that could in theory be replaced by monetized services (e.g. Alice & Bob and all their pals hiring a massage therapist to come to the dorm during finals week).  

                  However, in a boundless growth scenario on a finite planet, eventually all of those things have to be monetized as transactions, or the system bogs down, hits a ceiling, and stops growing.

                  BTW, I've been arguing The Limits to Growth since somewhere between age 16 - 17, so it's highly unproductive to tangle with me on this.

                  So, you were saying...?

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:34:10 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's growth whether it's monetized or not. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MixedContent

                    Because it has value, whether it is monetized or not.

                    So your whole argument is silly. Growth is not the problem. What we grow is the problem.

                    And personally, I don't care how long you have been pompously arguing this, and I'm not interested in your paranoid delusions about FBI agents going after pirate gardeners:

                    So once again, FBI agents pile into their unmarked cars, weary and disheartened from being pulled off bank robbery cases and kidnappings and such, to pursue the new priority of going after pirate gardeners.  They arrive in suburbs across America, bearing warrants to arrest little old ladies for growing a few tomatoes and cucumbers in their back gardens.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't like this any more than you do," they say as they bundle the rebellious little old ladies into the back of their cars.   And once again the headlines are a-buzz with news of the "pirate gardening conspiracy" that has just been "thwarted by diligent law enforcement."
                    All of that would be fine in a dystopian novel but is hardly the basis of a rational discussion. Do you often confuse fantasy with reality?

                    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

                    by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:47:44 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  As long as you are consuming too much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        expatjourno

        That applies. But much of the world has nothing or precious little to trim. Elaboration elsewhere on the thread (bottom of page).

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:57:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not precisely true. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        expatjourno

        http://plato.stanford.edu/...

        Or maybe it is, depending on your theory of intelligence.

        Where are we, now that we need us most?

        by Frank Knarf on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:11:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  See my down post. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      expatjourno

      Which questions if we are using the right words.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:55:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The limits to growth agenda got its start in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Knarf

    70s and failed to acc't for rapid population control in China, self regulated population reduction in western developed countries, technological breakthroughs including substitution of materials, and dramatic increases in food supplies through the green revolution. Otherwise it was on the money.

    This time around we will be confronted with several global constraints of resources at the same time, notably water, food, and energy. I'm sure we can overcome the challenge of energy, not at all sure about the first two. Outlier events such as epidemics and wars may also play a role in capping "growth" for a long time.

    So here's a basic question for McKibben, assuming a plus, even a minor one in the population column, how do you feed, house, clothe and employ your new citizens without growth? I read about steady state economics 30 years ago, can't recall how this one gets solved.

    “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

    by the fan man on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:28:52 PM PDT

    •  how do you land a spacecraft with a stowaway? (0+ / 0-)

      Bottom line is, you don't, on a fixed supply of fuel, unless you jettison the stowaway.  See also the short story The Cold Equations.  https://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Birth rate = death rate.  Either both are low and life-expectancy is long, or both are higher and life expectancy is shorter.

      Excess population above carrying capacity will die of starvation, disease, crime, or war.  There is no escaping this.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:23:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But the supply of fuel is NOT fixed, it rises (0+ / 0-)

        and falls, is replenished and as the other comment points to, can be shared differently for different outcomes.

        “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

        by the fan man on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:52:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  How about equitable redistribution? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man, koNko

      The Gini Coefficient of the U.S. has headed drastically in the wrong direction over the last 50 years, just to provide an example.  A progressive taxation system would provide a start, at least in this country; if the political will and structures were in place, it might be possible to achieve more equitable distribution of wealth globally.

      •  Good point (0+ / 0-)

        But applied on a global basis, the US remains a wealthy developed nation (with rising inequality to match some developing nations).

        Not arguing against your point, merely elaborating the global effects.

        Yes, the US needs more progressive taxation. Certainly.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:21:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Distribution changes how growth is shared, it (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          doesn't negate its need. Growth can be exponential or replacement plus, it can be self renewing or simply extractive. Without qualifiers, "an end to growth" is not very helpful sloganeering.

          “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

          by the fan man on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:49:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  See may remarks about Growth (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            the fan man

            Near the bottom of the main thread.

            Perhaps we need to consider other terms. Indeed, life depends on growth, or can get killed by the wrong type.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:56:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What we have now is unhealthy, harmful growth-- (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko

              what Daly referred to as uneconomic growth:  http://en.wikipedia.org/...

              Sadly, even though this is glaringly obvious to even many casual observers, there are few economists and even fewer politicians willing to acknowledge this obvious truth.  I agree, we must do what we can, where and when we can; and hope (against all available evidence) that someday, soon, responsible and ethical leaders will be in a position to do something concrete, swift, and bold to address the problem.

    •  There is plenty of water, but it is not all where (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man

      it is needed and is heavy and expensive to move.  Food is the scary one.  Complicated dependencies and difficult to quantify risks.

      Where are we, now that we need us most?

      by Frank Knarf on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:14:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Denier positions: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ree Zen, G2geek, happymisanthropy
    2010s: If we had been able to sustain economic growth, we would not have had trouble with the limits.
    And I predict:
    2020s: A human dieback is inevitable and is happening, but we must protect civilization (i.e. the privileges of the wealthy) by as much repression as necessary.
    Some of us were already on this topic during the '70s, when Julian Simon (remember him?) was the god of the deniers of limits.
  •  I remember when the zero population growth (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ree Zen, Al Fondy, G2geek, expatjourno

    movement led by Paul Ehrlich was branded as socialist, back in the 70's and 80's.

    I'd rather have a buntle afrota-me than a frottle a bunta-me.

    by David54 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:44:15 PM PDT

  •  we'll need a new economics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Bob Guyer

    One not based on debt.  

    If you borrow against tomorrow, you need to grow to pay it back.  Growth is a necessity under that system.

    Credit has become one of the primary means of reverse wealth distribution, a tax on the 99 per cent by the 1 per cent; financial expert Margrit Kennedy has calculated that 45 per cent of the price of goods reflects this cost of capital. As economists such as Steve Keen and Michael Hudson have demonstrated, the systemic breakdown in 2008 is essentially a crisis of debt - a generalised incapacity of governments, corporations and households to repay their debts. Without wiping out the debt, we cannot restart the economy.
    One radical solution?

    Institute reverse time rewards on money.  That is, have people return it to its governmental issuer every half decade or so, at five (old) to four (new):  

    The result was that accumulation of money was not very profitable, meaning that those with money had very good reason to invest it into productive resources or to lend it out, which was itself a core reason for the economic wellbeing of that time.
  •  Republished to Systems Thinking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    forgore

    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 06:24:27 PM PDT

  •  Noted misogynist Larry Summers (0+ / 0-)

    thinks that there are no limits to growth -- provided men can keep women out of mathematics (where we have no aptitude, according to him) and in the bed (where we have the only aptitudes he can think about).

  •  Nothing grows forever. Nothing. (0+ / 0-)
    •  That's why decay was invented. (0+ / 0-)

      Because growth, actually, is fundamental to life.

      Decay is nature's way of taxing life to perpetuate it.

      And unregulated growth has a name, too: cancer.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:24:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  can i just say thanks (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, ORDem, kamarvt, koNko, marsanges, srkp23, dradams

    for this very thoughtful diary, and the thoughtful comments that followed? writers pretty much live to stimulate discussion, and this is a good one

  •  It comes down to the same basic solution (0+ / 0-)

    every time, no matter what path is chosen to fix the earth:
    reduce the number of people now on the planet, reduce it by a large factor.
    But When you have religions, cultures, and governments - not to mention idiots who want to force raped women to carry the baby to full term -- whose tenets encourage and abet indiscriminate human breeding, there can be no way to implement that solution.
    It is going to take a horrendous universal disaster to change that. My guess would be a collapse of our eco-environment that makes not only the food, but potable water and even breathable air as available as they are today. In other words, when resources are so scarce and uncertain  it becomes a social norm/religious belief that at regular times some people must be killed (or aborted) to preserve the remainder.

    The people demand the fall of this regime ...

    by fourthcornerman on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:25:12 AM PDT

  •  I think the implosion of the world economies... (0+ / 0-)

    ...are now taking care of the growth issue naturally....a lot quicker than environmental problems.

  •  GROWTH is the wrong word (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    expatjourno

    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.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

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

      [ Parent ]

      •  But reality is dynamic & cyclic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drnononono

        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

        [ Parent ]

  •  Some other resources (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

    by SaraBeth on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:47:54 AM PDT

  •  Climate change is vexing the plutocrats (0+ / 0-)

    The end of growth? yes- and soon The American system unfettered growth- is over. Killed by climate change- this is son funny- and it has the right wing climbing the walls- I love it!

  •  Billions WILL die (0+ / 0-)

    If war doesn't get us, famine and disease will.

    Plan accordingly.

    Move to the empty places.  And get used to it.

    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:22:14 AM PDT

  •  I've been saying this for years (0+ / 0-)

    You cannot have infinite growth within a finite sphere. I'm glad to see that prominent voices who command more attention than I can ever hope to are saying the same thing. But it's still not enough until we canget the message out to mainstream voters and consumers. The question of how long can limitless growth be sustained within a finite biosphere should be put to everyone, not just politicians and businesspeople.

    Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

    by drewfromct on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:20:41 AM PDT

    •  It depends on what you are growing. (0+ / 0-)

      And what you are using to create growth. There are, of course, limits even if all the resources used are renewable, but those are just theoretical at this point.

      Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

      by expatjourno on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:05:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What we are growing (0+ / 0-)

        is population. This planet is only so big. We have only so much clean air to breathe, and only so much clean water to drink and to grow food. And the more people there are, the more we foul that air and water. There are limits to growth. Period.

        Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

        by drewfromct on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:27:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We are nowhere close to limits on population. (0+ / 0-)

          What we have is a small minority (that's us) with ridiculous levels of consumption of non-renewable resources.

          If the U.S. and Europe ceased to exist, there wouldn't be resource shortages for anyone else for quite some time.

          The planet is big enough for a lot more people, if they are not gluttons.

          Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

          by expatjourno on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:38:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Big Oil wants growth and, by God, they WILL (0+ / 0-)

    have it!!

    It's one thing to convince Americans to cut back.  Even if we cut back, we will have an enviable lifestyle.

    How are people in developing countries going to be educated and convinced to relinquish the wealthy lifestyles that are almost within grasp?

    The fossil fuel industries want nothing more than to dangle the bright shiny lifestyle of consumerism in front of the poor of the world.  They are drooling over these billions of souls who will be transformed into energy users/CO2 producers.

  •  Most people can't imagine there are other (0+ / 0-)

    ways to live. I'm having a really hard time dealing with this because I want to live differently and my wife can't see any other possibilities. At some point I will just have to do it and hope for the best.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. G.B. Shaw

    by baghavadgita on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:18:01 AM PDT

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