"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Do we need economic growth?

An old friend of mine, in both senses of the word, told me a story the other day. When she was a little girl, many decades ago, her family was hugely privileged to own an automobile. When she was only a few years old, seeing the potential for overcrowded roads and with great foresight, she asked her father "what will happen if everyone gets to own an auto." What indeed!
Another friend came in with her own similar story. Working in a factory on a production line of, let's say, widgets, she became increasingly concerned that all of these widgets would ultimately end up on rubbish dumps where they would stay for ever. No recycling, no decomposing, just permanent ugly rubbish!

Cancer is a horrible disease. Cells begin to run amok, uncontrolled, and eventually kill not only their host but also themselves in the process. Our Earth has cancer.

In answer to a question from the floor, the Governor of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King in his Today Lecture last night hoped that we would soon be able to return to a position of economic growth. That is clearly seen as a "Good Thing."
And as I write this I have the radio on and once again someone has just mentioned the urgent need for growth.

But what happens ultimately to all this growth? Where does it end? Where do all the widgets go? Where do all the resources come from? Our footprint on this earth is too large already. We are already living beyond our means. 
Someone has just said - I missed her name but will happily put this right and give her credit if someone can identify her -

"Nature does not do bailouts. We are too big to fail."

We are told we must spend our way out of the current economic crisis - to carry on over-consuming! That is so counter intuitive! But sadly now is not a good time to be challenging the need that is firmly entrenched in our mindset, when we are back in recession and massive unemployment and when so many families are worried about where the next meal will come from, and how to keep roofs over their heads.

But whilst relief must get to such families, don't we also need to get over the psychological barrier that always tells us growth is good? Don't we actually need a “degrowth” movement worldwide, where small once more becomes beautiful, as E F Schumacher told us? Last week was International Downshifting Week. and there are lots of resources out there to help us all downshift. 

It is clear that we need to write a better story around the benefits of doing this, of more sustainable living, with visions of a more attractive and happier lifestyle available from simpler life styles.

Let's all start writing those stories.

 Anyone wishing to read more about the wounds and flaws in our economy and how we can leave smaller footprints on the earth will find that I explore this whole issue in my first book, but from a unique angle never before attempted - from the perspective of the Wounded Healer.

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