Creeping towards mainstream consciousness

During a recent visit with an old friend who has far, far more television channels than I was even aware existed (and I have cable, I’m not a technophobe!), I saw part of a 2006 Swedish documentary titled The Planet. It had a brief segment featuring a person of some recent interest to this and other blogs:

And curiously enough, it was brought to my attention by a different friend that New Scientist’s [I know, I know] currentish issue (10/18-24/2008) was devoted to the obvious-to-everyone-but-mainstream-economists-and-politicians concept that limitless growth is not actually a good thing for the biosphere and our well-being. He sent me PDFs of the relevant articles.

The main editorial is How our economy is killing the Earth and is a “free feature”, as are several other editorials and interviews covering similar ground. I tinypic’d Herman Daly’s article for my own reference purposes when traveling, but if you happen to read it please remember that New Scientist retains all rights to the content. The same goes for David Suzuki’s interview, an article by Andrew Simms on the myth of trickle-down economics, a New Scientist “what-if” imagining a steady state economy, and a short essay by philosopher Kate Soper.

An interesting graphic accompanied the main editorial, the correlation of a number of “illths” with population and economic growth:

[click to enlarge]

Sure, this isn’t exactly Newsweek or the WSJ circulation-wise, but it’s a start.

Commenter Brian D in a previous thread brought up a great point, that yes, it’s all well enough that we need to mainstream this concept, but we also need to mainstream possible solutions. I can’t lay claim to any more than an interest in the subject, but I’m going to attempt to change that in what little spare time I have. I recently picked up Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, and I am looking for suggestions. Brian D mentioned The Economics of Happiness by Mark Anielski. Any others?

[UPDATE: Wow, I’ll certainly have to watch the new PBS Frontline investigation HEAT. It sounds like it hit the growth topic at least glancingly. The things I’ve been missing out on…]

[UPDATE: Mark Anielski has been kind enough to comment.]

[LATE UPDATE: Great minds and all that. ;)]


8 responses to “Creeping towards mainstream consciousness

  1. Thanks to google-alert’s I caught your blog thread. Herman Daly has been my mentor for years and wrote the Foreword section in my book The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth. He lovingly gave me a new title: God’s Auditor. I am hardly that!

    My book does offer practical solutions ( a road map) away from the current suicide/cancer economy of unsustainable growth (cancer cell metaphor) to a living, flourishing economy of well-being founded on a common longing for genuine happiness and joy, along with wise stewardship of the earth.

    I encourage you and your friends get a copy of my book; recycle it by sharing it with friends and neighbours. Buy the book from either your local independent bookstore or through New Society Publishers (my publisher). Organize a Sunday soup “salon” where you gather with friends and neighbours to discuss the many ideas I present in my book (such as interest-free banking and investing our money locally; take your money out of the “market”). These are some of the conversations we have begun in Edmonton; we are starting the first interest free micro lending enterprise in Canada based on the interest-free bank model, JAK Members Bank, in Sweden.

    I am filled with hope for tomorrow for the solutions lie within our hearts. We only need courage, wisdom, moderation and justice to carry us across the dark forces of time.

    cheers and enjoy your journey!

    Mark Anielski
    The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth

    [Thanks for the comment. I changed the link for your book as well as McKibben’s to the publishers’ sites rather than Amazon’s. I look forward to reading it soon. -TB]

  2. Although it’s decidedly below your level of competence, TB, I’ve found that using Albert Bartlett’s Arithmetic, Population, and Energy talk can be an effective way to show lay audiences the root problem here. (The mirror I first saw it at is here, but other mirrors exist.) It won’t hold anything you don’t already know, but the approach it takes — which includes an introduction to exponential growth to lay audiences used to thinking only linearly, as well as the ever-useful bacteria-in-a-bottle analogy — might prove useful in popularizing the problem.

    I’m still looking for better books on the subject; I’d heard about Deep Economy but haven’t read it. The only other titles I can think of are all relating to the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, which is apt but old (so old that the Julian Simon acolytes have a set of memorized talking points to attack it). If I find anything more recent and/or interesting, I’ll be sure to let you know here after I’ve read it.

    PS: Heat is an excellent program. I lack a blog to promote it on, but consider this one more endorsement.

    (On a side note: Wow, Mark Anielski starting up zero-interest loans in Canada? I need to find more information on this. That concept was one of the most intriguing (to me) ideas in his book.)

  3. I have not yet read The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience
    by Rob Hopkins, but it comes highly recommended. The town of Totnes in the UK is in the process of implementing many of the transition principles– including printing their own money. More information at In the U.S. there are numerous communities striving towards sustainability. Some are urban, some are rural, and some are in the deserts of New Mexico Australia has its versions, as do countries all over the world.

    All in all, it’s an exciting time to be alive. Peak everything and global climate change may well be the catalysts we need to re-invent the way we live in the world, and necessity may finally teach us the value of community, cooperation and resourcefulness.

  4. TB, I picked up a copy of Deep Economy today at my local indie bookstore. The clerk there’s a longtime friend of mine and shares many of the same interests, especially sustainability. Her recommendation of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is worth sharing; she brought it up the instant I said I was interested in Deep Economy. It appears to be more about industrial rather than economic approaches, but if such procedures were to be followed, the growth paradigm might be ‘declawed’, so to speak (in a similar fashion to how it’s put to better use in The Economics of Happiness). I haven’t read it yet, so consider this tentative at best, but I do trust her taste in books.

  5. Pingback: For the benefit of mankind — Hot Topic

  6. ‘We thus have any interesting problem, economic growth is unsustainable for a variety of reasons, however it is inherent in a modern capitalist economy. Providing alternatives to capitalism is no easy task but it is necessary. I suspect that ultimately it is easier to change the economic system than basic ecological realities, however most commentators reverse my approach’ is my analysis that went towards the Sustainable Development Commission discussion on growth, that is in turn debated in New Scientist.

  7. That graph of economic and population growth is quite telling – All of that scrambling happening at the top right really illustrates the nature of consumeristic societies well.

  8. Pingback: My apology to the field of economics | The Way Things Break

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