You hear it almost daily. “Growth first half year has fallen to less than 0.3%” or “Economical growth has to increase if we are not to…” or “We have to have steady growth or we have nothing to distribute”. Except for the obvious reply “Why don?t we distribute, more fairly, the wealth we already have?” (and the fact that the wealth added by economical growth is generally distributed with something like 10% to the poor, 20% to the middle classes and 70% to the already wealthy), there?s a fundamental flaw in the growth philosophy: Everlasting growth is dependent on everlasting supply. The producers might be able to con people into buying almost everything in these days of murdering sales promotion and ads but unless they have the raw materials nothing will come out of the machines. And the raw materials are limited!
Which means that the economical gurus who hail growth as the base for economical success and the statesmen who make this an overriding goal (probably 95% of them) for some reason either must have missed almost all their geography lessons when in school, or are lying like mad. According to all science the earth has a certain mass and dimensions which don?t seem to increase as to follow the growth-idiots? plans. But of course the people who talk about eternal growth know very well that it can?t go on. That?s why they are so desperate to lay their hands on as much of the natural resources they can before they run out completely, some in the next ten to forty years. Don?t they have children or grandchildren? Do they expect their offspring to live in caves? Maybe in the future they have plans to ship iron ore from the moon or copper from Venus, I don?t know, but having experienced the common just-in-time trend in business I greatly fear for the delivery time and price if I need a 20mm M6 bolt for my Opel and the raw material has to be dug up in a mine on the moon. Perhaps that?s what the traditional economists have envisaged for their children. To start interstellar raw materials freight lines?
Let?s be absolutely clear about this! (I mean really, and not in the Nixon sense of making things perfectly clear.) The planet earth consists of only so much iron, copper, uranium, oil, gold, cobolt and other materials, and not one bloody milligram more. Any growth that is based on taking out these limited resources from the ground is doomed to come to an end. While talking about limits we should perhaps remember that all talk about oil and a lot of other things as being produced is lies! We don?t produce any oil, we take out what is there. We don?t produce copper, we refine ore already there. And what is there, surprise surprise WTO, is limited. Unlike the pig Saerimner, in the vikings? belief of the beyond death, Valhalla, who is slaughtered every winter and reappears to be slaughtered next winter again, that part of our common cake is not renewable.
Much of the growth in the traditional sense depends on limited raw materials being used to produce things. from paper clips to printing presses. Much has a short life span, like computers or detergents, some longer like a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud ?34 or a hammer. Some of the growth that is the basis for those holy figures making up the national product is actually not very positive. A population that because of foul air has to run to the doctor and get medicines every now and then, will help raise the growth of the medical and pharma industry but as long as the ailing can work the GNP figures will be positive and will not indicate the decline in national health or the suffering of individuals. A traffic accident causing major damage but deaths only of nonproducing people (kids and old folks) might actually be very good for the economy in the traditional sense. Plenty of new autos sold, lots of repairs and other economical activity. This is why we have to kick out everyone who tries to con us with such nonsens as growth. Those figures are today?s snake oil!
Some resources will no doubt last for a long time, iron and coal are a few of them, but others will, already without increased demand be exhausted long before the 21st century is wrapped up. Oil, which most leaders in their infinite wisdom have based the transport systems on, will be finished in perhaps 20, and latest 50 years. Even mr Bush Junior, will be able to see the last drops being fought over if he lives a normal life span. And yet in 2002 he is still prepared to send 100.000 innocent people to their deaths and spend 100s of billions to hasten the exhaustion of it!!! He must have missed both the geography and mathematics lessons, when in school. (Not to mention basic ethics!!) Oil man?? Sure! Snake oil!
Some resouces are, thank god, renewable. As long as Monsanto & Co haven?t caused a catastrophy by their genetical experiments, or their insecticides haven?t by mistake taken out the wrong species, new rice, wheat and trees, fish and chicken will grow up and can, as long as we handle it with care, respect and moderation, be harvested at regular intervals. Trouble here is we obviously still haven?t learned either care, respect or moderation which is why the fishes in large areas are so few and small that they hardly meet a species friend until they are ground to powder to feed the pigs.
To understand growth and its implications we have to adopt an economical view on things. Mind you, not an economists view! Economists still hold true that when reality collides with their theories, reality is incorrect. It makes much more sense to follow the example of the farmer who knows he has X acres and what those acres yield, repeatedly, is what can be taken out. A big and agressive country might find that it can take over some acres from other countries or take control over their oil fields, to keep its growth rising, but of course this is just an illusion on par with the conjurer?s tricks. Reprieve for a short period to conceal the bluff! And the final awakening to reality will be the harder the longer it goes on. Besides, taking things from other people has a tendency to cause a bit of resentment and someone usually has to pay for that sort of arrogance. Everything taken out from the cupboard of exhaustable resources is gone forever, unless it can be recycled.
Those who shop till they drop may very much enjoy their latest acquirement of mahogany-imitation plastic panelling for the kitchen, but the day is not far away when real mahogany will be the only alternative. Sorry, a bit more expensive! And of course the almost forgotten art of carpentry has to be reinvented. Come to think of it, where did all the people go, who not so long ago could repair clocks, shoes, furniture, clothes, radios, cars and lawn mowers? And from where came the people who can only fix a minor problem on the TV, washing machine or computer by exchanging module 23WXS37984-91M to another, hopefully faultless one, after we have returned the piece of junk (in its original packing) to the producers warranty departement in Upper Volta?
There?s no reason to get depressed though. We only have to learn some new skills. Recycling of what we have is one thing. Using renewable energy is another. Unfortunately we don?t get much help from our elected (or unelected) politicians. All over the world they seem dead set on going on, much like suicide detachments, without missing a step in their unending quest for growth. Most people are not so stupid that they thoughtlessly use up all their available stock of something that is very difficult or even impossible to renew. That?s people! Now take a look at economists and politicians!! Produce, spend, use and waste!! What we need to do is start dismissing each and every person, who claims that growth is the solution to anything, as a liar, cheat and enemy. The undustrialized nations have to start learning to live within their own means. Just like they tell us to do! The next time you hear a speaker talk in the usual reverent tones about the holy economical growth, contradict him or leave. Next time Greenspan says it, send him a mail telling him not to be unpatriotic! To lie to the citizens is definitely unpatriotic! Next time the president uses figures of economical growth as proof that the nation?s finances are sound, add that lie to the rest of his repertoire of deceptions.
In some areas, surprisingly, we can have growth that doesn?t take a bite from the cake. If you go to the hairdresser and have a haircut, the services industry will have (limited, I agree) a slight lift. If all people in the nation cut their hair double as often as usual the growth in this sector might actually go from 1.7136 to 1.7137%, but unless you really need those haircuts it seems a bit unproductive. And if any electricity is used it has to come from renewable sources or the cake is again nibbled on.
Production using recycled raw materials and renewable energy in clean nonpolluting processes that manufacture things that normal people need (as opposed to automatic platinum champagne coolers that play “Hail to the chief”) is really the top of state of the art. May we have some more of those? Please?!
Let?s also remember that according to many scientists a lot of us never learn to use more than around 20% of our brain capacity. (Sorry Georgie-boy, you had your chance! Now live with that brain!) Here?s a field for growth that only a moron would bypass by letting education deterioriate, simplistic marketing brainwash the population and stupid entertainment grind down the left-over cells.
To belive in endless growth on a limited planet one has to be either an idiot, national economist or brain-dead politician!
So why do we let those people govern us?
Jerre Skog is a Swedish writer, musician and alternative observer living in Germany since 1999. More articles, political and satirical can be found on: Jerre?s Thinktank www.skog.de Comments are welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org