Growth vs Sustainability

It is one of the main dilemmas of our time. Economic growth is seen by governments and people as essential. If the economy falters then there is unrest and governments get thrown out.

Yet economic growth is creating unsustainable demands on the ecosystem – pollution, global warming, resource depletion, and so on. The two do not appear to be reconcilable. We know all this.

There has to come a solution. If we leave it to the earth’s natural systems, we may well not like the result. We are getting a taste, as extreme weather events become more common, plastic pollution becomes increasingly pervasive, species extinctions accelerate. Refugee crises, population migrations and epidemics are likely to get much worse.

So it’s important to consider possible solutions. One is put forward by Positive Money in their excellent research paper Escaping Growth Dependency, just published. They argue that the debt-based money system is a major factor driving the growth imperative, and reform of this money system is essential as part of the solution.

They propose adding a new tool to the Central Bank’s toolkit: ‘sovereign money creation’, and preventing banks from creating money altogether. Thus money as means of payment is decoupled from money as a source of credit.

The paper suggests that such a change could ‘open the door to a transition to a sustainable economy’. I’m all for that!



2 thoughts on “Growth vs Sustainability

  1. In my research I’ve decided that sustainable growth broke down when humanity discovered fossil fuels. Up until about the year 1700, the human population climbed incrementally. Yes, there was considerable deforestation, but that was pretty much the only resource tapped out. And of course, that resource is renewable, with management.
    Had humanity never been given the accursed gifts of coal and crude oil, humanity would have never seen the population explosions of the last three centuries — all due to easy access to cheap energy.
    This theory could be used to imagine a world without fossil fuels. How would humanity have managed their limited lumber resources? What systems would have been put in place to return to a sustainable tree based energy system? (Until, a thousand years later, the atom was split, the integrated circuit invented and alt-energy replaced burning wood.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes I’m sure you’re right, there’s a link with fossil fuels. Looking at today’s society, they seem to me to have been a blessing as well as a curse. But the challenge is clearly to learn to minimise their use, and do it without the ecosystem going too far out of kilter,
      There seems to be a human characteristic of only doing things when the necessity hits you hard in the face, well it’s doing that now.

      Liked by 1 person

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