- The `Economic' Cancer of Growth-To-Ruin -

"A growing nation is the greatest ponzi game ever contrived."

Paul Samuelson

What is commonly termed "economic growth" today is a combination of productivity enhancements and population increase. In fact, nearly 70 per cent of so-called economic "growth" is not productivity rise but simply population increase, not to mention inflation and currency decline further skewing the statistics.

Population increase, however, is not real "growth." It is nothing more than a per-capita decline in the essential qualities of life - i.e., per-capita space, environment, resources, etc.

Yet even in today's out of balance world this sorry definition of "growth" persists within the economic profession. In effect, by confusing growth with per-capita diminution, it serves to produce a continually degenerated and overpopulated world - thus robbing future generations of the better, less-overcrowded, world we ourselves inherited.

Growth then is indeed a ponzi scheme, and at this stage in humanity's devastation of the planet, it is nothing less than a crime. Yet we remain imprisoned within capital's sick and self-defeating definition of growth and progress - largely due to capital's overwhelming control of society and economy, as well as the persistence of religious idiocy. In effect, Balance is ex cathedra and outlawed.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

Edward Abbey

What we are suffering from is the uneconomic, amoral, religio-capitalist, program of perpetual, per-capita, decline and its concomitant environmental devastation. While real progress has been made in bringing populations in balance in some countries, nevertheless, fundamentalist forces (including the Bush Administration) prevent birth control programs, erect gag rules, and so keep humanity expanding and chaos brewing.

As a result of such policies, wealthy nations are made to pay the bill in the form of immigration-to-ruin, environmental devastation, and resource wars. Poor countries wallow in despair and attempt to export their problems - a sick legacy to future generations.

Any truly moral, efficient, and responsible economics leaves a legacy of balanced budgets, balanced populations, and balanced environments. That direction is progress, that condition is economic, and that estate is moral and responsible.

Rather than continuing to direct and legislate public policy toward "growth" we need to re-orient our entire socio-economic structure and legislation toward Balance. At this stage in mankind's journey, and given the fragile environmental state of the planet, only Balance is a moral, rational, or truly economic agenda.

"The real meaning of capital's "progress" is that growth must proceed until all desirable optimums are exhausted and destroyed. Preservation of any human or ecological balance, and more desirable state of affairs, is denied in theory and practice. Pursued for its own sake, and without reference to extant conditions, growthism is a cancer producing continual per-capita diminishment and illusory profit - until space for natural freedom is exhausted and our enclosure, dependency, and despair are complete."

Kent Welton

For a thorough exploration and discussion of Growthism see this writer's Cap-Com, The Economics Of Balance. Click on book cover for Amazon purchase.


"We in the United States are in a culture that worships growth. Steady growth of populations of our towns and cities is the goal toward which the powerful promotional groups in our communities continuously aspire. If a town's population is growing, the town is said to be "healthy," or "vibrant," and if the population is not growing the town is said to be "stagnant." Something that is not growing should properly be called "stable." Yet, the promoters of growth universally use the word "stagnant" to describe the condition of stability, because "stagnant" suggests something unpleasant. Since continued growth is the goal of the promoters in our communities, we should understand the arithmetic of steady growth."

Albert A. Bartlett

Growthism is my term for a complex of beliefs - economic, social and religious - which are driving our world to ruin, to continual per-capita degradation, to the degeneration of every better estate, to the ever-increasing loss of the quality of life and, possibly, to the ultimate environmental disaster.

Like any dogma, religious or otherwise, this economic religion appears to be its own justification - regardless of consequences, or the state of the world into which it is applied. Like other unchanging dogmas it is divorced from the real world in which we must live.

In a world controlled by mega-corporations - whose amoral and self-interested philosophy is Growth Uber Alles - we are bombarded daily with propaganda about the blessings of growth, even as we experience its opposite. Unless we, the people, regain control of our corporate oligarchy and re-define economics to generate balance, the world will continue to degenerate under a self-defeating, for-profit, ethic of growth-to-ruin.

Despite increases in sales and profits in recent decades have we have seen nearly unrelieved declines in real wages, political power, and per-capita estates of wage-laboring majorities. For these reasons it is the task of capital's economists to translate real decline, and "trickle-up" transfers of wealth from the many to the few, into "growth" and "universal gain." The trick here is to mask decline, hide concentrations of wealth and power, and protect capital's factor hegemony from which the greater profit and power is mined.

Without confusion and a complacency induced by empty statistics and irrelevant yardsticks, wage-labor would not tolerate a self-defeating status quo, and work simply to decline in real terms while the great bulk of reward, freedom, and prerogative flows to the few on top. What is clearly growing today is global oligopoly, dependency, debt, corruption, eco-ruin, class conflict, and per-capita diminishment as capital tightens its control over our lives.

"Society must cease to look upon "progress" as something desirable. `Eternal Progress' is a nonsensical myth. What must be implemented is not a `steadily expanding economy,' but a zero growth economy, a stable economy. Economic growth is not only unnecessary but ruinous."

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn

While a labor with a few shares of stock may be temporarily profited by concerns exploiting disparities between markets, at the same time one's job, community, and children's future are devastated by capital's extortions gone global. Short-term gains in one's meager stock portfolio are subject not only to market declines but most are also hit by “flexible” employment, job export and loss, wage ruin, devaluation, overcrowding, debt, eco-collapse and declining natural estates.

The obsession with growth rather than equilibrium means that, while a few may succeed and escape their condition the vast majority remain mortgaged to employers, banks, landlords, and ultimately dependent upon society. Ravaged by multiple booms and busts, and subject to at-will employments without refuge, many never gain in real terms or recover losses. We may lose all we have worked for and remain locked into wage-labor. In fact, most "retire" into subsidized poverty with a declining currency courtesy of capital's "free" trade.

Given endless booms and busts, what is termed "growth" by economists is often but recovery of losses suffered in the last decline. In effect, we are going nowhere as recovery of our previous position is confused with growth. In fact, we may only be re-attaining what we once had... in a more crowded world. When and if we do recover, or gain in real terms, a new decline soon begins and, once again, we may lose our jobs, health, wealth, security, and any landed freedom attained.

Clearly, a large part of what passes for "economic growth" is false, self-defeating, inflationary, only profits the few, and may represent but a recapture of our previous estate. In practice, we may spend half our lives getting back to where we once were, only to find we have worked all our lives to get nowhere! Real surplus from a lifetime of wage-work is either non-existent or, more likely, in someone else's hands along with the land for independence.

We can only recover so many times, and survive endless boom-bust cycles, before we discern the corrupt nature of the game. Nevertheless, without alternative, we are like gamblers longing for one big score, hoping for success, and towing the mark. In classical terms, we are suckers.

Once enclosed and disenfranchised, no amount of wage work and "growth" ends this costly dependency of the vast majority, or renders free what have become effectively-forced markets for labor. Despite capital's propaganda, few can ignore their senses and simply believe their lives and living standards are improving when, in fact, the opposite is happening. Nevertheless, capital's economists refer to this state of affairs as "progress," and recommend its replication everywhere.

As always, recovery, salvation, and re-enfranchisement are just around the corner... if only we allow more "growth".


"The vast mass of mediocre economists are entrapped in their own unnatural love for a growing gross national product. Growthmania is surely the most pervasive social disease in America... most economists are hooked on growth the way junkies are hooked on heroin."

Paul Ehrlich


"The cult of 'growth' has dictated policy for decades. But if well-being, not growth, is our goal, selling resources that bring long term well being to communities for short term gain is a very bad deal. Hard as it may be for the West to understand, protecting the ecological resources of communities might be more important than GDP figures."

Vandana Shiva, PhD

Perhaps such myopia is understandable given that most economists know little more than a world of patriarchal, enclosure-bred, and factor-imbalanced societies and statistics. What can we expect corporate-employee, Wall Street employed, economists to conclude if they value their employment? Like any wage-slave, to gain their own salvation and retain employment, they have no choice but to spout the corporate line and see black as white.

Capital's economists are paid to find evermore "efficient" ways to drive a landless, disenfranchised, labor into a "harmonized" global proletariat. The ethic here is one of exploiting, rather than remedying or compensating for, global disparities, and excusing rather than promoting factor imbalance. Winners in this game may even garner a Nobel prize (chosen by Swedish Central Bankers) for coming up with the most elegant, arithmetical, justifications for enclosure and wage-slavery.

Economics remains then, at best, a half-brained ideology missing essential concepts of factor and population balance, feminine values, qualitative measures, and right relation to nature's sinks and capacities.

The very language of Growthism also reveals a male-defined drive for dominance - wherein we speak of "expanding" and "penetrating" markets and "dominating" the resources of other nations and people. Growthists speak of forcing open markets with the same cunning, and sense of divine right, as those who once spread the legs of virgins to make bloody sacrifices to male gods upon a cold stone slab.

The rise of this inherently self-defeating "economic" philosophy and its increasingly dismal social conditions emerges from enclosure, factor imbalance, and the unnatural ways in which we have come to live and work.

Nevertheless, many continue to believe we can neither survive nor prosper unless we grow by invading another's marketplace, securing their resources, and absorbing expanding populations. As a result, we seek to force trade, win economic contests by colonizing others, ever-increase our share of distant economies, and manufacture a global "interdependency" while labor's clout, democracy, ecology and balance are destroyed.

Today, no local autonomy, democratic decision, or national or cultural freedom is to interfere with capital's effectively-forced "interdependency" dictated by GATT/NAFTA and Growthism. Not only is this dogma imperial in nature but it also admits no qualification to process or any measurement of the character and quality of what is growing. Indeed, the quality of life is expelled from this obsession with numerical increase. Measures of real wealth, of per-capita space and freedom, remain taboo as they demonstrate the lie of what has become no less than a religio-economic theology of growth-to-ruin.

As a process without limits, Growthism has no relationship to the most important qualities in our lives, much less social equity, democracy, human rights, factor balance, or environmental sustainability. As a goal and good measured only by increases in widgets and beings, a short-term, quality-less, profit and per-capita ruin becomes an end unto itself. Corrupt values and dismal measures drive a corporate need divorced from effective freedom, democracy, and eco-sustainability... and continually crush the better estate.

Traffic Jam

- More Growth is the Problem -

"I think that when we are discussing global imbalances, we have to think about the causes. The biggest cause is the economic myths and our growth-mania. And more growth is not the solution. This economic growth-mania has already created the biggest extinction of life the Earth has seen in the last 65 millions of years... We are not solving economic problems and, as a matter of fact, we are creating economical problems along with social and ecological imbalances. We do not need globalization, we need local community action; we do not need bigger corporations, we need small business; we do not need artificial technology, we need natural and accessible technology, linked to nature's limits."

The Daily Reckoning


"The industrial elites are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence... We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward...We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around."

Chris Hedges

Growthism has become the intellectual equivalent of perpetual-motion machines - i.e., a dogma device driving a pseudo economics, feeding an empty ideology, and meant to give the illusion of progress as corporate predation and per-capita ruin proceed. With capital's mis-measures we progressively destroy all real wealth and avoid issues of factor parity, natural freedom, quality of life and population balance. With empty statistics, we may then decline in real terms as we "grow" to profit stateless corporations, and private central bankers.

By counting population increase as "growth" rather than per-capita decline, growth is not only synonymous with progressive ruin but devoid of reference to quality, purpose, justice, equity, natural right, ecology, and root estate. As a result, "growth" means incomes and disparities may increase, and societal power of capital expand, while the very quality of life, and per-capita space and freedom, decline.

As a quantity-driven faith without relation to equity, balance, or the condition of one's community and environment, Growthism lacks both context and assent by the vast majority. As such, it is doomed to produce social and ecological ruin, and political turmoil.

After centuries of "growth", our enclosure, desperation, dependency, and disparities are greater than ever - a clear indication we are not only moving in the wrong direction but have no other countervailing motive force or ethic. Despite its failures, Growthism remains the dominant shibboleth of our time, one demanding genuflection from capital's economists and politicians.

"Yes, economists are addicted to this ideology. Trapped deep in their denial, can't see the problem, or admit it, or if they do, they are unable to stop themselves, see past their own myopic world view. They're mercenaries working for capitalists who pay their salaries, and expect them to support the capitalist's bizarre Myth of Perpetual Growth. Worse, the public also bought into the myth. Yes, you believe everything you learned in college about economic theories, all the textbooks, everything you read in the daily press, the government reports, all those Wall Street analysts' predictions relying on studies prepared by economists with credentials. But everything you think you know about wrong. Dead wrong. And until economics acknowledge this, the discipline is on a self-destruct path."

Paul B. Farrell

Wherever enclosure and factor imbalance prevail, rights of the penultimate individuals, and powerful possessors of capital, become supreme. Few community rights and majority powers are not overruled by the influence of money as powerful individuals and mega-corporations become nearly, if not completely, omnipotent in society.

In this setting, without balancing principles and forces, we are destined to grow disenfranchisement, discontent, social pathology and eco-ruin. Packed like rats into ever-shrinking cubicles, and driven to compete for capital's growth and benefit, this dismal ethic must soon collapse of its own absurdity and excess. In the interim, Growthism remains the force in our lives due to enclosure, capital's supremacy and extortion of labor, and a host of western, patriarchal, religio-economic, values from an age with little relation to our own.

- Endless Decline & Critical Size -

"Geographical expansion is a concomitant of real decline and coincides with `a time of troubles' or a universal state - both of them stages of decline and disintegration."

Arnold Toynbee


"It was always inevitable, on a finite planet, that there would be a limit to economic growth. Industrialization has enabled us to rush headlong toward that limit over the past two centuries. Production has become ever more efficient, markets have become ever more global, and finally the paradigm of perpetual growth has reached the point of diminishing returns. Indeed, that point was actually reached by about 1970. Since then capital has not so much sought growth through increased production, but rather by extracting greater returns from relatively flat production levels. Hence globalization, which moved production to low-waged areas, providing greater profit margins. Hence privatization, which transfers revenue streams to investors that formerly went to national treasuries. Hence derivative and currency markets, which create the electronic illusion of economic growth, without actually producing anything in the real world."

Richard K. Moore

Social and ecological "external" costs continue to mount today as wage-dependency, oligarchy, oligopoly, and eco-ruin accompany growth. Little wonder that a spiritual malaise has become rife as we continue to destroy freedom, space, leisure, and nature in mindless competitions without respite.

As currently defined, and in the face of real wage declines and inflation, much of so-called "growth" is clearly un-economic, counterproductive and ruinous. Losses of real wealth, natural freedom, space, democracy, and environmental stability are fast becoming an embarrassment even to its apostles. Nevertheless, this insight is treated as villain.

Regardless of conditions, Growthism does not tolerate limits of any kind - much less countenance any ethic of balance or face the fact of perpetual, per-capita, decline in the most important of measures. As for counterbalance, what steady-state-oriented value can emerge today to balance economic relations, factor parities, or limit behavior in the common interest? What growthist ethic or strategy enables local democracy or marketplace to maintain the superior estate and social optimum by de-incentivizing, if not penalizing, reproductive irresponsibility or eco-ruin?

If not yesterday or today then, in the very near future, Balance must become a prime societal value. Unfortunately, few counterbalancing forces currently exist in societies geared to capital's agenda and perpetual growth... and that is our problem. Without new forces and incentives equally as powerful as those advocating unlimited growth, we will never forestall, or defeat, perpetual decline as maintenance of any optimal condition becomes impossible.

As expansionism for its own sake, Growthism proceeds to destroy all balance and superior states of society - this in the name of profits for the few and patriarchal moralities unfit for a new age and the declining condition of humanity and nature. "Rescue by science" cannot not solve the overpopulation problem unless its ends the dogma problem.

With balance and balancing values missing from our core societal ethics, and within a finite space on earth, the prevailing ethic of "grow or die" becomes one of grow and die. Nevertheless, the high priests of Growthism see any interference with ever-increasing population as threatening to their profits and power.

"At critical size, the survival requirements of society begin to increase at a faster rate than productivity. As a result, an ever-increasing proportion of goods previously available for raising personal living standards must be diverted to social use... It makes no difference whether the body is governed by a capitalist or communist brain. In either case it suffers from the inner instability of the overgrown... the only way of restoring stability and manageability is not by changing governments or economic systems but by reducing social size to a magnitude commensurate to the small stature of Man."

Leopold Kohr

Pursued without end, limit, or restraint growth is not so much a value or sane ethic as it is a dangerous game. The game involves a pursuit of pseudo wealth measured in paper money and ever-higher numbers - values devoid of relation to natural process, human rights, and the real wealth of superior, per-capita, conditions.

In view of history, we might conclude Growthism is a manifestation of youthful, impetuous, nation-states bent on cultural and trade conquest. With the wisdom and restraint of maturity missing in youth, “young” and immature societies are characterized by imperial, religio-economic, ventures and ideologies. They are prone to proselytizing and geared to chewing up old societies and new frontiers. Without restraint all historic Edens and new frontiers soon disappear and we come to a very crowded end.

Population "Takings"

"Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters."

Isaac Asimov

Every Birth-Beyond-Replacement results in population increase and various forms of per-capita "takings." As population increases beyond replacement each person has less of an earthly share of land, open space, fresh water, resources. As a result, most if not all experience declines in their quality of life. indeed, it is the quality of life for each that suffers due to human increase. One reason is that we only measure and value quantity.

In the twentieth century alone, the population of the world quadrupled, an occurrence without precedent in human history. For those of advanced age they remember how much more quality of life was available to all when the population of the earth was 3 billion - say, in 1965 - instead of six billion and growing.

Yet many remain Julian Simon-fooled by what they think is a "low" rate of population increase without considering the doubling times implied. For example, given Mexico's 2004 rate of 2.1%, its population will double in only 33 years! This translates into a current population of 107 million going to 215 million in 2037. This means a crush of illegal immigration to parts north, and the ruin of everywhere unless such a "small" rate of increase is soon brought into balance.

"In the last 200 years the population of our planet has grown exponentially, at a rate of 1.9% per year. If it continued at this rate, with the population doubling every 40 years, by 2600 we would all be standing literally shoulder to shoulder."

Prof. Stephen Hawking


"The General Synod of the Anglican Church has warned that current rates of population growth are unsustainable and potentially out of step with church doctrine - including the eighth commandment, 'Thou shall not steal'. It has warned concerned Christians that remaining silent is little different from supporting further overpopulation and ecological degradation. Out of care for the whole of creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves… unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment - 'Thou shall not steal'."

Anglican Church Of Australia


"Projections that global population growth will level out in coming decades are not assured... just a one-child difference in global fertility would mean an extra 10 billion people by century's end. It matters enormously what we do right now."

Joel Cohen, Columbia University

What we have here are, in effect, the Pope's Children - i.e., massive increases in population brought about by denial of women reproductive rights, contraception, and a "moral" dogma of growth-to-ruin. We who have achieved Balance in our populations are forced to pay the price for these endless population takings - all courtesy of Catholic, Islamic, and fundamentalist dogmas restricting the rights of women and undermining sane and safe societies and environments.

Billions upon billions of dollars are sucked from the economy and the coffers of the balanced to take care of the irresponsible and dogmatic. Immigration from poor countries to wealthy is reaching crisis proportions as many flee despotic governments and already-ruined environments. A world in balance, however, would not see the social turmoil, budgetary crises, or environmental collapse we are witnessing today. No amount of money replaces the value of the less-crowded world of yesterday... the greatest taking of all.

Unless we achieve a world in balance in short order we can do nothing but despair for the future of mankind on this planet. Nature's signals are getting louder every year, and scientists around the world are begging politicians to get serious about our deteriorating environmental conditions and climate change.

As with any one-factor, one-dogma tyranny, Growthism not only has its dissidents to destroy but also its propaganda must be ever-employed to defeat balance, reform, and women's reproductive rights. Messengers of local empowerment, democracy, factor balance, contraception, and true conservatism must be portrayed as xenophobic, nationalist, populist, eco-extremist, and secular villains in Growthism's infallible global scheme.


"We must alert and organize the world's people to pressure world leaders to take specific steps to solve the two root causes of our environmental crises - exploding population growth and wasteful consumption of irreplaceable resources. Over-consumption and overpopulation underlie every environmental problem we face today."

Martin Luther King

It is apparent that despite the opposition of the great majority, our ruling elites and corporate oligarchs force upon us a predatory immigration policy - i.e., the idea is to continually lower wages, terrorize existing labor forces with a continual supply of new entrants willing to work for less, and prevent unions, etc.

In effect, Mexican and Latin American workers leave their villages, remove manpower and brainpower from building their own communities, leave behind families, destroy family structure, and allow Catholic nations to export their surplus humanity and facilitate corrupt regimes. Given the huge numbers of people involved year after year, they migrate to live in overcrowded surroundings, lower property values, overwhelm the environment and schools, and lower wages.

To complete the domestic devastation immigrants send billions back to Mexico and do not spend it in the local economy. At the same time we are forced to pay the immense social costs of education, births, and medical care of non-citizens and illegal immigrants. The idea that we, the vast majority, are somehow benefiting from this situation is absurd.

Today, we hear the Social Security excuse for immigration-to-ruin. The premise is that we have to import more workers to offset the post WWII demographic bulge. This implies that older generations wish to inflict endless population growth and eco-ruin on their own children and grandchildren. Nothing could be further from the truth. The solutions to Social Security funding problems are relatively easy but the plan of the one-world corporate masters is to increase immigration and birth rates for "growth" demands it.

Taxing the Third Child - Taking Back the Taking

"Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, maybe we should control the population to ensure the survival of our environment."

Stephen Hawking

Who should pay for the Popes children or the Ayatollahs progeny? The Catholics, Islamists, the State, the unbelievers, the vast majority not contributing to the problem? In view of the fact that every birth beyond replacement, and every immigrant, adds to per-capita domestic takings, those who break the balance, and/or profit therefrom, should in some meaningful fashion pay.

Given the state of the earth and society at this juncture, in order to stop or slow what amount to religious imperialism, ruin-by-immigration, and beyond-replacement birth rates, we must begin to consider new ways and means to bring our states and nations into balance. Only is this way we will pass on a world to our children in no worse shape than that which we inherited. To begin, we need to emphasize, and measure, the quality of life rather than the quantity and change incentives throughout the system to accomplish the truly moral, economic, and responsible goal.

As for the costs of Papal policies mount, consider that the taxpayers of California bear a huge cost to provide basic human services for a fast growing, low-income, sector of its population. A recent study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform organization calculates the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens is $10.5 billion per year.

They also find the state's already struggling K-12 education system spends approximately $7.7 billion a year to school the children of illegal aliens - who now constitute 15 percent of the student body. Yet another $1.4 billion of the taxpayers' money goes for health care to illegal aliens and their families, and a similar amount is spent incarcerating illegal aliens criminals.

They conclude that "California's addiction to 'cheap' illegal alien labor is bankrupting the state and posing enormous burdens on the state's shrinking middle class tax base... "Most Californians, who have seen their taxes increase while public services deteriorate, already know the impact that mass illegal immigration is having on their communities, but even they may be shocked when they learn just how much of a drain illegal immigration has become."

Those who break the balance should pay, and those who profit from breaking the balance - i.e., employers who reap the benefits of lower wages, and gain more contributions in the church collection plate, should pay the costs of their dogma and its manifold effects upon society and environment. This is only fair and responsible, both to today's taxpayers and tomorrow's generations.

Tax the church, tax the third child, and tax those responsible - not, as we do now, those whose lives are lived in balance and who not contributing to ruin by population growth.

Obviously, to change the structure of society's ethics and mores we need to defeat the control of mega-Corporate and mega-Church organizations upon our lives.

He who breaks the balance must, in some fashion, pay to restore the balance. Clearly, the vast majority of hard-working, tax-paying, citizens are sick and tired of subsidizing their own ruin, of paying for other's irresponsibility and the idiotic policies of growth-to-ruin.

"To hasten growth is to hasten decay."

Lao Tzu


"We must alert and organize the world's people to pressure world leaders to take specific steps to solve the two root causes of our environmental crises - exploding population growth and wasteful consumption of irreplaceable resources. Over-consumption and overpopulation underlie every environmental problem we face today."

Jacques-Yves Cousteau


"Every civilization in history has collapsed, after all. Why should ours be any different?... It appears that once a society develops beyond a certain level of complexity it becomes increasingly fragile. Eventually, it reaches a point at which even a relatively minor disturbance can bring everything crashing down. To keep growing, societies must keep solving problems as they arise. Yet each problem solved means more complexity. Success generates a larger population, more kinds of specialists, more resources to manage, more information to juggle... As connections increase networked systems become increasingly tightly coupled. This means the impacts of failures can propagate... Eventually, the point is reached when all the energy and resources available to a society are required just to maintain its existing level of complexity. Then when the climate changes or barbarians invade, overstretched institutions break down and civil order collapses."

Debora MacKenzie


Economy & Environment


"Today we need a Copernican shift in our worldview, in how we think about the relationship between the earth and the economy. The issue now is not which celestial sphere revolves around the other but whether the environment is part of the economy or the economy is part of the environment. Economists see the environment as a subset of the economy. Ecologists, on the other hand, see the economy as a subset of the environment. Like Ptolemy's view of the solar system, the economists' view is confusing efforts to understand our modern world. It has created an economy that is out of sync with the ecosystem on which it depends. Economic theory and economic indicators do not explain how the economy is disrupting and destroying the earth's natural systems. Economic theory does not explain why Arctic sea ice is melting. It does not explain why grasslands are turning into desert in northwestern China, why coral reefs are dying in the South Pacific, or why the Newfoundland cod fishery collapsed. Nor does it explain why we are in the early stages of the greatest extinction of plants and animals since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.

Yet economics is essential to measuring the cost to society of these excesses. Evidence that the economy is in conflict with the earth's natural systems can be seen in the daily news reports of collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, eroding soils, deteriorating rangelands, expanding deserts, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, falling water tables, rising temperatures, more destructive storms, melting glaciers, rising sea level, dying coral reefs, and disappearing species. These trends, which mark an increasingly stressed relationship between the economy and the earth's ecosystem, are taking a growing economic toll. At some point, this could overwhelm the worldwide forces of progress, leading to economic decline. These increasingly visible trends indicate that if the operation of the subsystem, the economy, is not compatible with the behavior of the larger system--the earth's ecosystem--both will eventually suffer.

Recent events in the economic and financial systems cause one to wonder if we're beginning to see the effects of an economy outgrowing its natural base. The larger the economy becomes relative to the ecosystem, and the more it presses against the earth's natural limits, the more destructive this incompatibility will be. The challenge for our generation is to reverse these trends before environmental deterioration leads to long-term economic decline, as it did for so many earlier civilizations. An environmentally sustainable economy--an eco-economy--requires that the principles of ecology establish the framework for the formulation of economic policy and that economists and ecologists work together to fashion the new economy. Ecologists understand that all economic activity, indeed all life, depends on the earth's ecosystem--the complex of individual species living together, interacting with each other and their physical habitat. These millions of species exist in an intricate balance, woven together by food chains, nutrient cycles, the hydrological cycle, and the climate system. Economists know how to translate goals into policy. Economists and ecologists working together can design and build an eco-economy, one that can sustain progress."

Lester Brown,
Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth


"We must understand how debt affects national accounts . When an individual borrows to make a consumer purchase, retail sales increase - and we call it growth. When governments borrow to fund programs, government spending increases - and we call it growth. When corporations borrow to build a new manufacturing plant, capital spending increases - and is called growth. This type of growth is a direct result of an increase in debt… growth is perceived when debt is increasing, and contracting when debt is decreasing. Per traditional economic theory, growth does not distinguish between goods purchased from income (profits), or goods purchased from debt... When someone borrows to purchase an automobile, retail sales increase in the month of the purchase. However, retail sales fall by the amount of principle - and interest payments in subsequent months. Since principle and interest payments will be substantially above the purchase price at the end of the loan amortization period, the fall in retail sales will exceed the original purchase of the automobile by the amount of interest paid… we see a tremendous transfer of wealth from society to the bankers of the world - which invariably must lead to a reduction in economic growth."

John Kutyn, Money For Nothing

- Websites and Videos Of Interest -
Vandana Shiva - The lunacy of Economic Growth
Who Killed Economic Growth?
This Is Ecocide - Making The Destruction Of Our Planet A Crime
Immigration By The Numbers - Off The Charts! - on Population & Immigration
Population and Sustainability Network
Declaration - Economic De-Growth For Ecological Sustainability
Overpopulation - Center For Biological Diversity
Human Population Crisis
Population and the Environment

- Other websites by this writer -

Kent Welton
Op-Ed Articles