When and How Will Growth Cease?

GR:  The three ways that Jason Brent (article introduced below) believes our unsustainable economic and population growth will end make sense, but choosing between the two methods of population control (as opposed to lethal disasters, the first method) requires rational behavior. Nothing in our history suggests that humanity makes rational decisions at global scales. That leaves only Brent’s first way, “Wars, most likely with weapons of mass destruction, disease, starvation, civil strife and other horrors beyond the imagination.” Let’s think about that.

Among the many scientists studying climate, even the most conservative are beginning to accept that global temperature will rise by 4-degrees Celsius by 2100. The accelerated weather extremes that come with the warming will add to the pressure of limited resources on economic growth, even growth at realistic rates of 2% or 1.5%.

The greatest short-term climate change effects on growth will be reductions of agricultural productivity, marine fisheries, and freshwater supplies. These will force migrations and resource conflicts that will begin to trim population and economic growth well before the end of the century. Several uncertain events could further shorten the period of economic growth. Pandemic disease, loss of arctic ice, methane release, and power failure leading to nuclear reactor meltdown are just a few of the possibilities.

As others have pointed out, reducing population will not stop economic growth before current resource limitations and the compounding effect of climate change cause a crash. Disaster preparations at national and local levels are essential. Richard Heinberg recently offered two approaches to preparing for the crash. I recommend reading my and Heinberg’s comments along with Brent’s in the article below.

Jason G. Brent– “Only with knowledge will humanity survive. Our search for knowledge will encounter uncertainties and unknowns, but search we must. The search must persist and adapt as humanity’s present knowledge is expanded and changed. Continued allegiance to the false belief that human population and our current economic system can grow indefinitely, runs directly counter to this search for knowledge. Those that espouse this belief hinder our search for the knowledge critical to humanity’s survival.

“Since Earth and the resources it can provide humanity are finite, both population and economic growth must cease sometime in the future. To use ridiculous examples to prove a point– Earth could not support 1 trillion people for even one moment and Earth could not support an economy 1 trillion times as large as the current economy for even one moment. Therefore, the following questions arise:

  1. When will growth cease? and
  2. How will growth cease?

“We can debate when growth will cease, but we cannot debate the fact that it will cease. Those who take the position that growth in the number of people, the resources they use, and the waste they create can continue on a finite Earth are, again, arrogant fools. While new technologies, recycling and any other actions taken by humanity can reduce the amount of resources used per unit of economic activity/output, neither new technologies, recycling nor any other actions taken by humanity can convert the finite and limited resources Earth provides humanity into infinite resources that will permit economic activity and population to grow forever.

“Almost every resource Earth provides humanity is finite. The more we use today the less we have for tomorrow. Theoretically, Earth provides humanity with two types of resources: renewable resources and nonrenewable resources. Nonrenewable resources include fossil fuels and minerals. Renewable resources include soil, water, forest growth, fish in the ocean, and similar items. In reality, humanity is using almost every theoretically renewable resource faster than it can be naturally replaced and, therefore, for all practical purposes, renewable resources have become nonrenewable. Well before these resources are exhausted, we will find them harder to exploit. Humanity in the past has used those resources which were the easiest to obtain, had the highest concentrations of the minerals desired, the easiest to process, and closest to the place where they would be used. In the future humanity will be forced to use resources which are harder to obtain, have lower concentrations, are harder to process, and further from the place of usage. We will therefore face the challenges of higher prices, reduced returns, and greater processing waste well before the resources are exhausted. In many cases we already are.

“Yet many economists, politicians, and even environmentalists will have you believe that the economy can continue to grow in spite of the fact that resources and sinks are limited. The recent budget proposal from the Trump administration relies on the assumption of 3% growth of the U.S. economy as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[1]. Since the economy will grow in a compound manner, a 3% annual growth rate would cause the economy of the USA to double about every 23.33 years. In 233 years there would be 10 doublings resulting in a growth factor of over 1,000 and in 466 years there would be 20 doublings resulting in a growth factor of over 1 million. In under 100 years at the same annual growth rate, there would be over 4 doublings resulting in a growth factor of over 16–2,4,8,16. The resources that will be available to the USA in under 100 years will not permit the economy of the USA to be 16 times as large as the current economy.  Do you have any facts that would support the position that the economy of the USA could become 16 times as large as the current economy in under 100 years?

“Instead, the evidence suggests that attempting to maintain an annual compound economic growth rate of 3% which would result in four doublings in 100 years, or a growth factor of sixteen, would result in the collapse of civilization. Why? Economic growth requires the use of physical resources. Without the use of physical resources, economic growth cannot and will not continue. It is almost certain that the earth cannot supply humanity, on an overall basis, with four times the resources it presently supplies. History suggests that resource constraints are more likely to lead to wars and disease than previously unseen economic flourishing and wellbeing.

“It is not my intent to pick on Donald Trump in this essay, as the majority of candidates and major political parties, across levels of politics, have taken the position that growth is the solution to all or almost all of the problems faced today by humanity. Anyone who believes growth is a solution to any of the problems presently faced by humanity ignores the fact that Earth and the resources it can provide humanity are finite, the power of compound growth and the fact that the human population is exploding.  Almost all of the problems faced by humanity today were caused, in whole or in part, by the combined impact of economic and population growth.” –Jason G. Brent (Continue: When and How Will Growth Cease? | MAHB).

The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH

GR: The grow-or-die business philosophy dominating global commerce leads to overuse of resources, accumulating wastes, plant and animal extinctions, and ecosystem losses. MacPherson writes about the nuclear industry which she finds be as dedicated to growth as all the others.

“To the nuclear industry the concept of ENOUGH is anathema. If you saw their slick advertising film “Pandora’s Promise” you would note that their major theme is endless GROWTH that will perpetually require ENDLESS ENERGY.

“The nuclear industry’s shills, and there are many of them, love to portray the anti-nuclear movement as wanting to send people back to living in a “dark ages” style.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Genuine environmentalists want all people to have a life of more light, of reasonable comfort and leisure time, of enough of the good things of this world, rather than of too much.

“It’s time that governments, bankers, industry leaders woke up to the reality that the world economy is threatened by growth, threatened by the accelerating destruction of this planet’s  air, water, land, and biodiversity. The destroyer is the growing human population and its growing consumption of ever more unnecessary products and unnecessary energy use.

“It’s time that people stepped away from endless individualistic  consumption, and towards a reasonable life of more cooperation, of working less hours. It’s time to move from our suicidal consumer culture, to a conserve culture.” –Christina MacPherson (Continue reading: The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH – theme for June 2017 « Antinuclear.)

Economic growth and climate change

dust-storm-002Climate change isn’t the only problem with our addiction to growth.  Growth is causing a Great Death of species and ecosystems.  Perhaps no economist and few politicians care if they ever see a bird or blade of grass again, but is a silent planet of stone and dust truly their goal? Do they believe that a magical door in space will let them go to a better world when this one is dead?  I guess they are so concerned with growth that they don’t consider other issues.  They’re like a driver checking their bank balance as their BMW races toward the red taillights ahead.

The following by  on Climate Change, Politics

With the coming G20 talks about to kick off in Brisbane, the focus of the agenda centres on economic growth as the panacea for all our troubles. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have been adamant in their focus upon the need to increase economic growth globally. It’s rare, if not impossible to find anyone in the mainstream public debate who questions the wisdom of ever-increasing economic growth. And yet there is a major underlying problem in our collective worship and addiction to growth – climate change.

Economic growth, rising affluence and a growing world population have been the major contributors to the environmental crisis we now face. Witness for instance our ever-escalating global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite four decades of political discussion about the urgency of climate change, the only times we have been able to halt this inexorable rise has been during periods of economic recession, such as our recent global financial crisis.

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