Sunday, February 3, 2013

In 2040, when growth is a memory…

by Josh Dowse

George Monbiot doesn’t hold back, and says it well. With the gift season now past, we’re again throwing out the trinkets of vacuous imagination. I can’t do better than quote him. After first reminding us that 99 per cent of everything we buy is obsolescent landfill within 6 months, he gets into gear, like Tim Minchin by the fourteenth verse:
“Many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. … a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped iPhone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather … No one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas day. They are designed to elicit thanks, … and then be thrown away.
“The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. … We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers … This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and by the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.”
Part of this effort is to fulfil our insatiable desire for economic growth, the same desire that drives advertising in kids’ shows, and casinos on foreshores. I’m not in the abstemious camp that says there should be no economic growth. Rather, economic growth should not come at the expense of irreplaceable social and environmental capital.
By that measure, according to the revered Hermann Daly, our economic growth has already peaked. “Economic growth has already ended in the sense that the growth that continues is now uneconomic; it costs more than it is worth at the margin and makes us poorer rather than richer.”

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