I want to believe in eternal economic growth. Given what humanity is facing with climate change and other consequences of our collective consumption, it must be awfully comforting to have faith in a cornucopian future where no one ever goes wanting. Especially if all we have to do is more of the same, sticking to capitalism’s exploitative playbook. I used to have that faith. I was a worshipper of technological progress and its potential to overcome all the social and environmental problems that accompany exponentially increasing population and consumption.
One fundamental problem is the concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as defined in the system that externalizes pollution, poverty, and a host of other planetary ills. Consider the following simple example.
George goes to the store, buys a carton of eggs and returns home. Bob goes to the store, buys an egg, returns home and makes twelve trips to obtain a carton’s worth of eggs. Bob has spent more money on fuel and therefore made a larger impact on the GDP through his INEFFICIENCY.
That’s right, the goal of GDP maximization rewards inefficiency, largely due to the fact that externalities are omitted from the reasoning process. Until the decision-making apparatuses of “civilization” reflect the resource-conscious wisdom of such “uncivilized” peoples such as the indigenous peoples of just about everywhere, humankind will remain a parasitic infection that Pacha Mama will not reward kindly.
From the article above:
"not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
“Continuous economic growth (increasing population and consumption) is incompatible with both preservation of natural ecosystems and long-term sustainability of human society. You don’t solve overshoot by overshooting further!”
I am glad this article also mentions the first and second warnings from the world scientists.
I have been derided and dismissed on this very site for saying the same things.
Thank you Rob Dietz!
Yet discussion of DECREASING human population is nearly as verboten as racism and other things considered evil. The real evil is that we are going to drown in our own pollution and filth before the discussion and solutions can be had.
By the start of the 21st century the number of births per woman has declined in most countries in the world to about 2. In some countries it is less.
Here is a link to Gapminder world chart that animates the change over time. Population growth is not so much a problem any more. Sustainability is.
The two go hand in hand. Even the most basic human existence as defined as civilized today is unsustainable except at population numbers too low to achieve it. Even if you define the energy received from the sun on a daily basis as infinite, natural resources and the ability of the planet to absorb pollution created from the misuse of even sustainable energy are not.
What store sells only one egg?
Alternatively, you might want to factor in the death rate and longevity. They contribute to a climb past 10 billion people. 71,000,000 people added so far this year. Sustainability indeed:
The ultra wealthy in their ultra comfortable silos don’t ever face reality or even breathe the same air. They visualize products that they cannot survive without and find some manufacturer who can provide the product at no monetary cost but untold pain to the environment. That is how the industrial age has progressed.
In his arrogance, Liebreich leaves no room for the unknown components of Ecological balance that are doing damage that we only see tertiary effects of. Earthquakes in Oklahoma and reduced night time bug spatter on the wind screen. He assumes that scientists in the early 20th century, who are below some high school students today in terms of knowledge expansion, created theories that we can derive from with such certainty that we can move forward without hesitation. Same thing we have always done.
Thomas PIketty has predicted growth to slow to below 2% per year in the upcoming years.
When those that have accumulated mountains of fiat can no longer continue to do so, they will come down on the general populace with violence. When a material resource based currency turns value on its head, Liebreich will have to find new masters.
When His current overlords defecate into Liebreich’s mouth and he regurgitates, we get such lovely articles such as Eternal Growth.
Eternal growth perfectly describes cancer.
Until it kills the host.
The U.S.war machine is doing it’s part to shave the world population down to size on an annual basis.
The British authoritative medical journal Lancet has a very pertinent report on population - that the world is experiencing a “remarkable” decline in fertility rates
Prof Murray said: “We will soon be transitioning to a point where societies are grappling with a declining population.”
While in the Guardian George Monbiot castigates David Attenborough on his over-populationist opinions
Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so, that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever.
Socialists are seeking ultimately to establish a “steady-state economy” or “zero-growth” society which corresponds to what Marx called “simple reproduction” – a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them.
Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of Nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of Nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of Nature to change it for their own benefit.
Whether it is called “the market economy”, “free enterprise”, the social system under which we live is capitalism. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place.
The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream. If human society is to be able to organize its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs. Many Greens have talked about “zero-growth” and a “steady-state” society and this is something we should be aiming at.
The problem for the ecologists is that they want this, but they also want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other.
Socialists start from a concern for the suffering of humans and look for a solution to this. This makes them “anthropocentric” as opposed to the “ecocentrism” – nature first. The plunder and destruction of nature is rejected as not being in the interests of the human species, not because the interests of nature come first.
Very few environmentalists reject capitalism. Most Greens are in favour of some form of capitalism, generally small-scale capitalism involving small firms serving local markets and if they desire to be seen as progressive they call for “co-operatives”. An underlying philosophy that “small is beautiful” and a philosophy that leads to mistakenly blaming large-scale industry and modern technology as such for causing pollution and not the capitalist system per se. To repeat once more, competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly.
Rob, I’m sorry but the prime driver of environmental damage is not population numbers but the mode of production. And prominent in the essay is the omission of the economics of capitalism.
And when it comes to population control, gene, the practices of social engineering and eugenics have been predominantly racist.
“People cannot help being born and being there, but the concept of overpopulation can easily suggest that part of the people do not really deserve to be there, or that they should not exist. From there, it is only another step to hating part of the human race and to feel justified in wiping that part out (or at least subject people to compulsory sterilization)…”
My point exactly.
Yet discussion of DECREASING human population is nearly as verboten as racism and other things considered evil.
The notion of working to decrease human population is not inherently racist. What is racist in the extreme is that fact that white folk, in the developed world, often act as entitled to use their power to promote efforts to impose measures to decrease the populations of folk of color. Racist is the practice of refusing to engage the targets of their population limitation efforts - communities of color - as equal partners in decision making processes, and justifying this as the greater good of ‘humanity’ i.e. white middle/upper class folk in the developed world.
The “concept” of overpopulation has nothing to do with judgments on deservingness.
It is a scientific measure of how many individuals an ecosystem can maintain.
Marx did not ever see global warming, and you are arguing against thousands of scientists who have done the math and science. That’s what Trump does too
The reserve army of labor is a result of having too many people. Marxism has no answer to this condition.
I want to see everyone employed at high wages in a clean, healthy environment. I almost never get what I want. Its the nature of the system.
You’re the Wise One.