Redefining Growth – Too Much Stuff

14 05 2011

Ruthless Growth, Futureless Growth, Voiceless Growth

How is it? In the so-called developed world we have found it necessary to start storing our stuff in warehouses crammed with stuff that people can’t fit in their homes, while in the endless slums of the so-called developing world peeps are struggling to put up some plywood, corrugated iron and plastic to call home and get through another soul destroying day on earth. Something’s wrong. We need to redefine growth.

The generally accepted definition of SustainableGrowth has been given to us by the Brundtland Commission officially known as the World Commission on Environment and Development. It is this: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

The Brundtland Report titled: Our Common Future was published in 1987 and it seems that things haven’t gotten better, no . . . they have gotten worse. Case in point. The destruction of rainforest in the early 1990’s was proceeding at a rate of around 1 acre every 3 seconds. Today the rate is estimated at 1 acre every second. Similarly the rate of extinction of species was calculated at about 1 species an hour while today it’s about 3 species an hour. Oh well . . .I guess that’s just too bad. As long as we keep digging up coal here in Australia and shipping it over to China and India so they can increase the parts per million count of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, I can continue to enjoy the air conditioned nightmare without having to worry. Do you think?

The process of Globalization was supposed to bring unparalleled levels of consumerism, agricultural modernisation, industrialisation and all the good stuff. Globalization was supposed to include the bargain of cool urbanisation for all those poverty affected folks . . .well you can be the judge of how well that has worked. Time to take a reality check here. Spurred on by the prophecies of Milton Friedman and the whole concept of Economic Rationalism we engaged in an orgy of deregulation and privatisation that gave us . . . the Global Financial Crisis.

It seems that the cowboys of capitalism, far from acting with benign intent to spread around the goodies produced via the wealth boom of the last hundred years have simply stuck their snouts ever more deeply in the trough. How is it we must now ask ourselves that despite the wonders of electronics, computers, automation, manufacturing, record levels of mining and chopping down the world’s forests at record levels we have more poverty in the world rather than less?

Dr Quantum would like to suggest a few simple pointers if any captains of industry happen to be listening. By all means read the points on unsustainable development below and have a look at the picture below. Please . . .if you still feel comfortable going home to your spouse and golden haired children fuelled by unsustainable wealth at the expense of the many, you’re not really getting it. More tossing and turning at night may be in order. Go ahead and wrestle with your conscience. The result may be that many people will thank you.

Five forms of growth have been identified that contribute to unsustainable development.

1) Jobless growth results when economic output increases amidst high unemployment and underemployment.

2)Ruthless growth is forcing millions to live in poverty, constraining them from developing as full human beings. Meanwhile, a few individual billionaires/millionaires enjoy income levels equivalent to the combined income of the millions in poverty.

3) Futureless growth results from the destruction of nature through improper mining practices, deforestation, use of pesticides, insufficient and improper environmental planning etc, etc, etc.

4) Rootless growth refers to the cultural decay and loss of meaning and identity which often accompany economic growth fueled by globalization and the entrance of materialistic lifestyles of industrialized countries

5) Voiceless growth is economic growth racing ahead of direct human rights and democratic processes and participatory governance essential to modern societies.

To these five undesirable forms of growth can be added a sixth. Meaningless growth results when some combination of the other five forms of undesirable growth blocks the creativity of the human spirit. The resulting loss in creativity, perspective, meaning, hope, and morality necessarily expresses itself in suicide, violence, drug addiction, crime, corruption and other social ills.
Source of the points above Center for Alternative development Initiatives.

To redefine growth in the positive must become our new challenge. Human beings are remarkably adaptable. We must find new ways to express and experience the insatiable need to expand the sense of self.  The human spirit will never settle for the dreadful repressions and mediocrity of some sort of Stalinist State as the answer to our challenges. The abject failure of the communist experiment must have shown us something. You would hope. Despite the neo-Marxist ravings of certain fresh faced ideologues, the free enterprise system must remain open, with emphasis on the word OPEN.

As Dr Quantum never tires of pointing out . . . the mis-reading of Darwinian theory by some misguided capitalists does not require that we practice corporate bastardy. We are not required to extend the idea of the “law of the jungle” into taking every opportunity to bring down our fellows in business.  This has been an epic fail in the world of human affairs. I’m clicking YUK. Our current challenge is to redefine growth as striving for excellence and success on the inner journey. Positive regard for our fellow travelers will surely be one result. This, for Westerners mostly means the progressive road to enlightenment.  In other words, you’re probably not going to sit bolt upright with eyes illuminated by the one light of God(dess). You may however wake up to the fact that we only progress as quickly as the least of us. Jesus the funkmeister is quoted in the bible as saying Whatsoever you do for these, the least of my bretheren, you do for me also. Please . . .will someone lend groovy Jesus a hand?

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