How our economy is killing the Earth


New Scientist Special report: How our economy is killing the Earth

Editorial: Time to banish the god of growth
Imagine an industry that runs out of raw materials. Companies go bust, workers are laid off, families suffer and associated organisations are thrown into turmoil. Eventually governments are forced to take drastic action. Welcome to global banking, brought to its knees by the interruption of its lifeblood – the flow of cash.
In this case we seem to have been fortunate. In the nick of time, governments released reserves that should with luck get cash circulating again. But what if they hadn’t been there? There are no reserves of fish, tropical hardwoods, fresh water or metals such as indium, so what are we going to do when supplies of these vital materials dry up? We live on a planet with finite resources – that’s no surprise to anyone – so why do we have an economic system in which all that matters is growth … More growth means using more resources. …If we are to leave any kind of planet to our children we need an economic system that lets us live within our means.

New Scientist, Oct. 2008.

This report addresses very well the quandary of an economic system dependent upon growth when growth may no longer be possible and could be toxic to all of us. Our exponential growth will soon hit the barrier of limited resources, making the current financial crisis look like a tempest in a teapot in comparison, unless we take drastic measures to make economists and politicians realize just how damaging modern economic theory and practice really are.

The facts about overconsumption

Economy Fig. 1 The increasing rates of change in human activity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Economy Fig. 2 Global-scale changes in the Earth system, as a result of the dramatic increase in human activity.
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2 Responses to How our economy is killing the Earth

  1. David Wilson says:

    I get the notifications when you publish, and suddenly this shows up in my inbox from 2008 (?)

    and I half-remember it, but at the time (as now) it was securely behind the ‘New Scientist’ firewall – there is on-line access at the Toronto Library but it is not working this evening … so tomorrow I will call them

    just curious about why today?

    • Alan Burke says:

      It’s just housekeeping David. This was an paragraph entry on one of the pages and I felt that it would be more accessible (e.g., via the search box and tags) as a posting (blog entry). It was originally published in Nov. 2008 and I didn’t want to confuse anyone with a more modern date.

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