Wednesday, August 03, 2011

WHO KILLED ECONOMIC GROWTH?



In economically developing Brazil, where growth is revving at record rates, this may seem like a strange question but it is surely being asked in North America, Western Europe and other ("advanced") economies where they have "been there and done that."

Joe Romm posted the video at the liberal advocacy site of Climate Progress and linked to his classic post about economic growth being a Ponzi scheme.

Money quote from Joe's NY Times interview:
“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

And from the conservative writer Rod Dreher:

This is not just an economic crisis. At bottom, it is a moral and spiritual crisis. We Americans have been living as if the historically extraordinary bounty of material wealth and personal freedom are the natural state of mankind. We -- and in a democracy, the government is "we" -- have been living far beyond our fiscal means for far too long, and punishing any politician who failed to lie to us about the free lunch.

But our disastrous failure of prudence is not only financial. Take the indulgent stewardship of our natural resources.

While we are (rightly) consumed by the perils of climate change, for example, few people are paying attention to the growing topsoil crisis. The world is losing vast amounts of precious, hard-to-replace topsoil each year, much of it disappearing because of wasteful agricultural techniques. Have we become so accustomed to full supermarket shelves that we think they will continue to replenish themselves infinitely, no matter what we do, or fail to do?

All of this runaway growth has been based on "cheap energy." As sane voices from both Left and Right caution that the fossil fuel binge cannot continue, mainstream politics remains frozen in near-total denial with the reckless ventures into more dangerous and expensive forms of extraction. Under such stalemated and deadlocked politics, major US environment leaders are now calling for a campaign of civil disobedience focused this summer on Obama's coming critical decision of whether or not to license the controversial Keystone XL pipelinek from Alberta, Canada to the refineries of Texas.

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