Mike's photo adventure weblog

Mike's photo adventure weblog: May 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Infinite Growth: How much is enough?

I've just read the short and punchy David Suzuki book The Legacy. One of the two-page snippets sprinkled throughout the book presented me with something terrifyingly prophetic.

After WW2, Truman established the Council of Economic Advisors, which recommended that consumption become the new economic driver. Victor Lebow put it most succinctly when he wrote, in 1955 in the Journal of Retailing, that to maintain economic growth:

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats — his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption."

Suzuki goes on to discuss growth:
"How can growth be the goal or purpose of an economy? It is the context within which growth occurs — what caused the growth, what the increased economy is to be used for, what the impact of that growth will be on people and ecosystems — that is all important. For example, our bodies required constant production of blood cells to replace the oens that die. But unbridled growth in any part of the body, even of blood cells, is, of course, cancerous and impossible to sustain in the human body or any system within the biosphere.

And by focusing on growth, we fail to ask the most important questions, like "How much is enough?" "What are the limits?" "Are we happier with all this growth?" and "What is an economy for?""

These words really resonated with me, and I ask you all to think about these questions. And share your ideas with me and others.