George Monbiot wrote a recent commentary for the Guardian entitled “Its Simple. If We Cant Change our Economic System, our Number’s Up”.
In that article Monbiot once again traces human civilization’s inability to look at the reality of our circumstances; our headlong race to “having our number called” because of the inherent insanity of the concept of “growth” and “progress” in a finite world system. It seems extraordinary for a so-called “intelligent species” that we globally refuse to acknowledge the inevitable trajectory of the “growth” strategy almost every human being on the planet has subscribed to.
And not only are we fouling our own back doorstep with poisons, the detritus from our consumption of “things” and the laying waste of the natural world upon which we depend, we are also fouling the world’s upper atmosphere with our “space junk”! We seem determined as humans to destroy ourselves and all the living beings we share this planet with. In less than a blink of an evolutionary eye, homo sapiens have largely destroyed the living fabric of this world.
The logic of this insanity should be absolutely clear to every single human being on this planet, and yet the argument that ‘growth and progress’ are anathema to our medium to long term survival, is seen as heresy. Look around: the world we share with millions of other species on this planet, is rapidly turning into a totally homo sapien centric world; where every living and dead thing exists simply for our use and gratification. We are rapidly closing down this planet as a living entity: – sealing over the soil with roads and buildings, poisoning the land with chemicals, burning pieces of it to spread into the atmosphere at colossal rates, modifying the landscape to meet human needs without regard to the other species inhabiting it, digging holes in the ground so we can spread more detritus over the surface of the planet, killing off innumerable species to feed our insatiable appetite- the list goes on and on and on….
What are we growing into?-where are we “progressing” to? are we happier?, more contented?, more in tune with the world?, kinder to our offspring and other beings?. No; we are more discontented, more avaricious, more grasping of things we do not have but which mean nothing, and more determined to destroy both other humans and the environment, to satisfy our short-term greed.
How can the supposedly so well-connected collectivity of humans on this planet have acquiesced to such an insane model of living? Are humans so blind that they can only see what is immediately before them and the immediate well-being and gratification of their own species? Humankind’s current 50 year strategy leads over a cliff.
What does it take for there to be change?-and will it be too late?
We live in a perpetual cycle of mutual self-justification of our crazy system which creates a seemingly sane “bubble” of human world activity within an insane and dead-end construct. The self-perpetuating myths of progress measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are the very measures of change in countries’ economic activity that are driving the world’s living things to extinction.
Stead and Stead (p1) Joseph Campbell (1988) points out that these myths reflect the underlying paradigms that guide the thoughts and actions of the people of a particular culture. Espousing society’s myths is a primary function of all of its institutions, be they political, religious, educational or economic. Campbell (1988) says that you can tell the dominant myth of a given society by examining the heights of its buildings. The multi-storey seats of economic activity that define the skylines of our cities today demonstrate that humankind’s most dominant current myth is economic wealth.”
Every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours is the myth of economic growth. For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world. The global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago. If it continues to grow at the same rate, the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100. This extraordinary ramping up of global economic activity has no historical precedent. It’s totally at odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology we depend on for survival. And it has already been accompanied by the degradation of an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems.(from ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, Tim Jackson)
And yet – despite the hype from corporates and governments, it will be relatively easy for most of us to change to become part of a steady state economy. Within a few decades we will have forgotten the importance of having the latest gadget, the next holiday to God-knows-where, or the latest fad or food. Small-scale organic farming provides a readily usable model to replace agri-business’ toxic produce, whilst producing wonderful benefits to the world and our fellow species. We will take our essential equipment for repair, instead of “recycling” to the landfill pit, we will accept as normal that everything we own does not have to be new and shiny, and rely more on local food resources and communities. Yes, the investment banks, multi-national corporations and billionaires will disappear, but we will all then have the time to re-assess what it means to be human and happy and connected to our living world.
Can Humankind Change the Economic Myth?
The Steady State Economy