“What is wrong with infinite growth? It has worked out fine so far?” was the comment I heard last night at a friends barbecue. Having just finished of my 7th beer of the night I decided this probably wasn’t the best time for me to start an arguing this comment.
However today the question still begs itself, what is the problem with infinite growth. The major problem with infinite growth is that we live in a finite world, everything has a limit. This is applicable to economics, resources and even our population.
Economics & Resources
Our economic system is based on constant unending growth. We measure this economic growth by way of our Gross Domestic Product, basically a running tally of all monetary transactions. Thus when there is a tornado that destroys hundreds of homes the GDP will actually rise because money, energy and resources are going to be used fixing the homes. What we are seeing now is an economic system that requires infinite growth that is measured largely on the consumption of finite resources. So what happens when our economy grows to a level that it requires more resources than the sustainable limit our planet can provide? Or even worse it requires constant growth of consumption of our non-renewable resources such as oil? As you can hopefully see the problem is that we are eventually going to run out of inputs. What will happen when we start to exceed the sustainable limits of our resources, or run out of the non-renewable ones? There are many theories on this, most of which are not very reassuring.
The human population for close to 10,000 years has been growing at an exponential rate. The general attitude towards this growth is that in order to support the increased population we simply need to grow more food to support said increase. The problem with this attitude is that by increasing a populations food supply we also increase the population itself. As you can see because of this we catch ourselves in a loop in which we produce more food for an increased population, which in turn increases the population more forcing us into creating more food. Thus our paradigm is based on infinite growth, which makes one believe that our economic system is really just a reflection of our current paradigm towards life.
What requires changing then, the economic system or the paradigm we currently live in? Many people would argue that by changing our paradigm so that we live sustainably we would solve all the other problems. The reasoning behind this is that once our paradigm is changed, problems such as our economic system would naturally change to fit our new outlook on the world.
Up until now we have seen infinite growth in all aspects of our lives, and so far it has worked out ‘fine’. However more likely sooner than later we are going to start seeing limits reached, and resources run out. When this happen we will be forced into massive changes whether we like it or not and we will no longer be able to live by the false dream of infinite growth.