The push for continual economic growth is a serious problem. Such growth, as we know it, is unsustainable. In large part that’s because it has a physical component. From the extraction of substances from the earth, to the production of goods, through their disposal as waste, there is a depletion of resources, emission of pollutants, a build-up of “stuff,” and an accumulation of waste. When these activities are carried out at rates faster than the earth’s capacity to regenerate and absorb, they gradually destroy the ecosystem, our life support system. 
As if that weren’t bad enough, evidence suggests economic growth no longer correlates with much real progress or makes most citizens any happier. Why then, do our leaders continue to push for economic growth? Why do they continue to promote the illusion of endless growth as a good thing?
Follow the money
As is so often the case, those seeking the answer are best advised to “follow the money.” For large corporations, constant economic growth means billions in profit. And do you think those profiteers are going to put the ecosystem or your happiness or any general betterment of society ahead of that kind of money? True, their orientation toward short term profits will ultimately sabotage their own well being (or that of their children), but the immediate profits are just too enormous to resist. Who isn’t familiar with the effects of human greed?
Not surprisingly, the corporate powers that be are among the primary cheerleaders of continued population growth and spreaders of disinformation on the topic. (Just investigate the assertions concerning population of any of a number of hyper-capitalist groups.) They don’t care about the impact of population growth on the environment as long as more people mean more demand for products and ever greater profits.
With the advent of globalization, as corporations have acquired, in some ways, more power than governments, crossing international boundaries and wielding their economic influence to bring governments into line with their agendas they have become more and more powerful in generating the economic growth of which they are the primary beneficiaries. Nearly everyone is victimized as third world citizens are directly exploited and the integrity of the ecosystem is sacrificed for the profits of a few.
We often have trouble seeing clearly this link between economic growth and its human and environmental victims. That’s understandable as those who profit from such growth go to great lengths to portray themselves as saints. As Molly Scott Cato puts it in Market, Schmarket: Building the Post-Capitalist Economy:
It is important to remember the human consequences of the era of ‘free trade’ because the wolves in sheep’s clothing are so eager to paint themselves as friends of the poor, kindly offering them the opportunity to better themselves by trading with us — and to paint alternative economists as hard-hearted and selfish by contrast. (p. 62)
There are good reasons, then, for the massive anti-globalization protests seen around the world in recent years. In fact, the phrase, “Growth is Madness,” came out of the anti-globalization movement. To address the destructive force of incessant economic growth, we’ll have to challenge global corporatization. Here, from the Pinky Show, is one of the simplest, clearest, most succinct introductions to globalization you’ll ever see:
If you found that useful, try the two other brief Pinky Show videos on globalization, available on YouTube.
[Update: For some related thoughts that add well to this article, providing insight into the corporate globalizationist’s desire for continued population growth, see this comment and discussion under a subsequent article.]
 Note that with regard to non-renewable resources almost any rate of extraction is unsustainable. Additionally, there are unsustainable aspects of growth which are not as easily explained by the “throughput” sequence of extraction-production-disposal. Suburban sprawl, for instance, would encroach on and destroy animal habitat regardless of the degree of resource throughput. As long as human settlement remains, habitat is not regenerated. Thus we must acknowledge limits to such growth.