We have lost the concept of enough.
In our unending quest for satisfaction, security and meaning, we have lost the understanding, the ability, and the will to say, “Enough!”
In the Western world, and in the United States in particular, we have a society, and an economy, that demands unending growth. We have stock market growth as THE measure of economic health, regardless of the reality of most peoples’ everyday lives. What does, “a jobless recovery” mean, anyway?
Governmental bodies conduct “growth planning” as the central tool to plan for resource allocation now and in the future. Politicians talk of “growing our way out of” whatever the current problem is.
And then there is the absolute stopper to any discussion that might question growth: “You can’t stop growth!” As if growth were an undeniable (and unending) force of nature.
But, of course, we can stop growth. It isn’t even particularly difficult. In the long run, it is absolutely necessary, because unending growth is not possible in a finite world.
Growth IS a force of nature, but it is only part of the cyclical nature of living things: (conception), gestation, (birth), growth, (maturity), decline, (death), and return. You can no more separate it from the rest of the cycle than you can continue to breathe in without breathing out.
At the individual level, at some point growth slows, then stops, then reverses. Even at the collective level, growth is cyclical as well. Societies grow, expand, and influence those around them, then slow, stagnate, decline and are subsumed into succeeding cultures. It is the same with species.
The question is not, “Can we develop societies and economies that are not based on unending growth?” The question is, “Will we develop these societies and economies while we still can, or will we slow, stagnate, decline and disappear when we exceed the ability of the rest of nature to support our overgrown presence?”
Given that we still refuse to contemplate alternatives to growth, right now it looks like we may not make it.
What do you think?