12 October 2007

The folly of growth

Leafing through the pages of your local newspaper you can come to no other conclusion than that growth is good. The more the GDP is predicted to increase in the coming year, the louder the cheers. If it is predicted to be only a couple of per cent, brows furrow. Corporate CEOs burst with pride if their sales figures are dramatically up. Politicians also get into the act -- growing populations are a source of pride, shrinking populations a source of shame. Such is it faithfully recorded in our daily press.

But then, occasionally, a nugget of wisdom appears. In the Globe and Mail this week a tiny article, discreetly tucked away on page A11, provided a sensible insight into the folly of growth. The article, referring to the views of a leading Australian climate change expert, stated, "Worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade." Internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist
Tim Flannery based his conclusions on reports from UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working groups. He declared, "We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change ... It's not next year or next decade. It's now."

So what is this madness? While scientists tell us economic growth is fouling our planet, we go insanely on producing ever more stuff, consuming ever more stuff, and loudly proclaiming what a good thing it all is. Are we not exhausting the Earth's resources fast enough? Are we not polluting the planet quickly enough? Growth for the sake of growth it seems -- the philosophy of the cancer cell.

And, our scientists are telling us, we are a cancer on the Earth. Growing without direction or constraint we are strangling the life out of the celestial body that sustains us. If a cosmic physician were consulted, he might insist that Homo sapiens is the name of a disease -- for life on a planet, a possibly terminal disease.

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