Growth Or Life?

As part of our “Question Assumptions” series, we are eager to reexamine our economy.

It happens every election season. Politicians campaign on the promise to fulfill the urgency of growing GDP (growth domestic product). One side points the finger at the other, accusing them of hindering this growth and arguing that it is the end all-be-all — environmental consequences be damned.

The cost of 3 percent growth

The magic number in this call for growth is three percent in developed countries. Failure to meet this growth will only be met with the economic collapse of first-world countries. As writer Jason Hickle points out, this makes society hostage to this growth and equates to doubling the size of the economy every 20 years and the waste that comes with it.

Unfortunately, scientists around the world agree that we can’t keep this up and have in fact, already exceeded what our planet can handle. Deforestation is more rampant than ever before, we’re seeing a new wave of extinction, and climate change threatens nearly every aspect of our planet’s ecosystem.

Creating a post-growth economy

The alternative option to continuing further down this road of unsustainable growth is to challenge this idea that three percent growth is mandatory for society to flourish. While this growth may bulk up large countries and developed nations, only 5 percent of it ever makes its way to the poorest 60 percent of humanity.

Hickle points to a post-growth economy with a cap on the wealth a nation or corporation can possess, stronger labor laws, and subsidized worker-owned cooperatives to distribute income more equally.

Growth in our current global economy is a requirement because of the debt that grows with countries like the United States every year. Industries and economies must continue to grow in order to pay the bare minimums on these debts — essentially treading water.

Forgiving these debts, shifting to new global monetary systems, and introducing new rules limiting the amount of resources we consume would be a good place to start. Not only would this help to curb the “growth-at-all-costs” model but help to reduce the growing destruction on our environment.

As part of our new editorial series “Challenging Assumptions”, we are examining our world economy. The growth-driven economic model we have adopted is killing our planet. Is it time to create the post-growth economy?

cover artwork by Steve Cutts , more of his work here

Other images provided by: Wikimedia Commons, Pexels.

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