Ecocide for a quick buck

Anti-globalizationThe 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. [1]

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.]

[1] 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.

Image source: sgrah, posted on flickr under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

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48 responses to “Ecocide for a quick buck

  1. Here’s a quote regarding the Australian (federal opposition) Labor Party’s draft industrial relations policy as lifted from the Age:

    The increased importance of climate change as an issue is reflected in the new platform, which strongly links environmental responsibility and economic growth.

    “The unprecedented challenge of climate change demands that economic growth should be sustainable both economically and environmentally,” it says.

    I must say I find these sort of statements laden with oxymorons, cliches and deceptions. These sort of statements are repeated as nauseaum but rarely is then much attempt to justify them. Is there truly such a thing as “sustainable economic growth” or is it a catch phrase to numb the punters into thinking we’ve got it all sorted.

  2. Adeaquate scientific evidence exists that indicates with remarkable clarity that “sustainable economic growth” has become an oxymoron in the 21st century.

    It is not my intention to “make up” scary prognostications and scenarios about the future of life on Earth, nor do I think the mass media is picking up stories regarding the challenges posed to humanity by global warming, et cetera because such scary stories happen to “make” news.

    Let me put the situation before us in another way.

    At the behest of benefactors and powerbrokers engineering the unrestrained growth of the global political economy, concerns about global warming and other potentially pernicious effects of climate change have been literally assaulted by cascading disinformation from the ‘talking heads’ in the mass media for over 30 years. It is not that too much attention is paid now to the global challenges looming ominously before humanity. Much too little attention is being paid to already visible and soon-to-be present dangers to life as we know it on Earth.

    The mass media focuses much too much attention upon whatsoever appears to be politically convenient and economically expedient with regard to the ever expanding, leviathan-like global political economy while remaining virtually blind, deaf and dumb to its patent unsustainability, in its current form, in the small planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit.

    What appears so worrisome, I suppose, is this: the current scale and fully expected growth rate of large-scale industrial enterprise overspreading the surface of Earth in our time could be approaching a point in human history when unbridled economic growth becomes unsustainable on a finite planet the size of Earth.

    Al least to me, it appears as if our children could come face to face with potential threats to environmmental health and human wellbeing that are derived directly from rampant economic globalization in Century XXI. Good scientific evidence regarding such challenges are uniformly ignored by the mass media these days. It appears that people with the most money hold sway over the mass media. And people with the most money are sure to get more money in the present system, and hold even greater sway over the mass media in the future.

    The ‘talking heads’ upon whom humanity depends for objective, science-based reporting are providing their services in a woefully inadequate way. But, as the masters of the universe know all too well, the ‘talking heads’ serve the interests of those “benefactors” who pay many thousands to millions of dollars………the ones who so dubiously wield financial and political power as a means of disguising the organization and control they adamantly assert for the sake of their own interests and, simultaneously, at the expense of the less fortunate among the human community.

    Always, with thanks to all of you,



  3. Hey, John, I can now scrap the draft I was writing — you’ve said it quite nicely here.

    Verdurous: Is there truly such a thing as “sustainable economic growth” or is it a catch phrase to numb the punters into thinking we’ve got it all sorted.

    I wonder a lot about this. My working hypothesis is that sustainable economic growth is a very meaningful concept — but in a sense quite different from what we think about today. For example, in a sustainable economy there would be nothing preventing software development going forward, similarly with science, engineering, and the arts. We can always learn more, become smarter, and apply the results.

    What you wouldn’t find in a sustainable economy is food production doubling because twice as much land is being tilled or a constant increase in the number of cars being produced. In today’s world that’s a really hard sell.

    We could create a world where no one had to labor long and hard each week (in the US the work week is longer now on average than it was in 1900) and there was food and energy security in abundance. In my fantasy of such a world, everyone would have a lot “free” time in which to ponder how to make life more enriching in ways that really matter — and poverty would be eliminated.

    Steve: I couldn’t agree more with your characterization of the mass media.

  4. Verdurous,

    Your question is an important one, and I added a footnote to the post to at least begin to address it with my own observations. Yes, I am convinced the term “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron with regard, at least, to most of the kinds of growth we’re familiar with today.

    Trinifar’s comments touch on kinds of growth (or “development” might be a better term) which would seem to be sustainable. Just to speculate wildly, I’m not sure if there may be other kinds of exceptions with regard to pure numbers, someone attaining ever greater wealth with no physical component to the growth. One might think such a thing would be possible, but might there turn out to be some sort of physical, material growth generated at some point in the process?

    For instance, someone or some group might generate wealth with essentially no limits purely through investment in the securities markets. But where there are winners in those markets there are losers, and some portion of those losers must go out and create more products or generate some other aspect of physical growth, I think, to compensate for their losses. So even a securities trading firm generating seemingly “clean” wealth might indirectly be causing more physical growth. That’s purely off the top of my head; there are probably clearer examples or something that refutes that thought.

    Edit: Well, there’s also the problem that anyone making a lot of money in securities is highly likely to be supporting companies, through their stock purchases, which create traditional, unsustainable economic growth.

    Basically, I do think that when corporate or government reports these days use the term “sustainable growth” it’s a pure oxymoron and at best reflects a misunderstanding of the term “sustainable,” at worst (and more likely if you give the authors any credit for intelligence) bogus propaganda. Some of Al Bartlett’s articles touch on this oxymoron.

    BTW, Trinifar, don’t scrap any draft, man! Whatever you were working on, we need more of this stuff out there, so feel free to post and spread the word. :^)

  5. Steve, very good points. In the post I touched on corporate power over government, but corporate power over the media is just as important. In fact, I think that little Pinky video (or one of her others on globalization) mentions the importance of controlling media, education, and pretty much everything that shapes opinion and our cultural views of things.

  6. Dear Trinifar and John,

    By all means, let keep at this discussion.

    One very brief point. It seems to me that a very firm distinction needs to be made between economic GROWTH and economic DEVELOPMENT. Given the current scale and fully anticipated growth rate of the global economy in Century XXI, economic growth will be shown to be patently unsustainable because of limits to growth imposed by biophysical reality of the finite world we inhabit while economic development can occur endlessly……..without regard to limits to growth.



  7. Well, not to be obnoxious, but I stand by my claim (with emphasis added): “sustainable economic growth is a very meaningful concept — but in a sense quite different from what we think about today.” But I think you all saw this. I just want it to jump out.

    I’m not an economist, but economics as we know it today appears to be far more religion than science — in spite of all the higher math they bandy about. The first commandment is “growth is good, I shall have no other gods before it.”

    The thing is, there’s much truth in the maximum “grow or die” and we don’t want to lose that. The change I seek is reframing the discussion as good growth versus bad growth rather than no growth. Growth in malignant tumor is a bad; growth in understand cancer and how to treat it is good. Turns out for the world as a whole most of the growth economists talk about is bad growth, hence “Growth is Madness!” is a fabulous name for a blog.

    When it comes to advocating for a sustainable economy, however, I think it’s important to point to the kinds of growth that are sustainable — growth in knowledge, growth in understanding people, growth in compassion, growth in making things more efficient and usable — because we don’t want or need to get painted as Luddites or Neanderthals. We aren’t advocating freezing human behavior at some sustainable state but rather chosing a sustainable economy so people can be free to live full and worthwhile lives, create new things, and continually improve the culture.

    What John added in the footnote is spot on: “…with regard to non-renewable resources almost any rate of extraction is unsustainable.”

    Okay, now part of my draft post is dribbling in, so I’m spare you more of my ramblings. Great discussion. I hope we hear Magne’s voice added to it soon as well.

  8. I agree with what you say there, Trin. The folks at Rocky Mountain Institute talk about what I think is the same thing with regard to community growth. They distinguish between expansion and development:

  9. Magne Karlsen

    John: “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?”

    – —

    Those are important questions. I believe the answer will necessarily have something to do with “old habits.”

    But okay. I’m sitting at the local library. Some other guy wants the computer.

    Gotta go. 🙂

  10. John,

    re: “I’m not sure if there may be other kinds of exceptions with regard to pure numbers, someone attaining ever greater wealth with no physical component to the growth.”

    I’ve been thinking about this a little too. Can one have growth in services without increasing material inputs. Are there theoretical limits to this, or only practical ones. I’ll have to send you some stuff I’ve read about the creation of money. Money being a “claim on wealth” rather than “actual” wealth. Does exponential growth in the money supply hold the future to ransom by making claims on future wealth? I need to learn more about these things. I’m only tipping the iceberg.

  11. Magne Karlsen

    Old habits are extremely difficult, even hurtful, to do away with. Old habits make way for a sense of stability in society, a sense of tradition, a sense of identity, etc. Doing away with old habits is like doing away with the framework of human life itself. Of course people (and leaders) are going to resist any such measures. – It’s like something I said sometime before: The greatest fear of all is the notion that, if things are starting to change, we will no longer know how to live.

    Here we are, discussing the problematic sides of over-consumption, for example. Yet we all know that over-consumption is “our way of life” – and has been so for a very long time, now: it’s our tradition. And not only in America and the rest of the western world; the culture / tradition of over-consumption has become a global phenomena. Regardless of faith, cultural backgrounds, social systems, political ideologies, etc. overconsumption has now become a part of the human psyche. It stands for “progress”, “development”, “freedom”, “liberty” – you name it! – And especially when it comes to energy-use. “Universal freedom” is every individual person’s right to pursue a classic American upper-class lifestyle; no matter where the person lives. In China, India, Iran, Oman, Cyprus, Italy, Algeria, Gambia, Suriname or Tahiti; you name the place or nation, and you’ll find the same attitude everywhere: everyone is dreaming of leading “The American Way of Life.” – And hey! Wherever you may roam, you’ll find that some people actually do that. And these people are “the political-economic elites of every society on this planet: the strata of the population which is constantly setting the standards for the rest of society to live up to. And dream of. And envy. And seek to emulate.

    Bluntly put: “Ecocide is progress.”

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll gladly say it again. We all know that the USA, which comprises of no more than 5% of the world’s population, is responsible for 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Sad to say: the rest of the planet’s population will hardly be satisfied until they’re able to lead lives that can compare with The American Way of Life.

    It’s a vicious circle, of course. As dirty progress keeps coming to the poorer regions of this world, we will soon be in urgent need of six or seven Earth.

    Not until Americans in general become ready to make serious changes to their lifestyles, will other peoples around the world be ready to lower their growth / progress expectations.

    This is not going to happen anytime soon, I’m afraid. Well: not if the general attitude of Norwegians is anything to go by. As it is: I see this every day: Norwegians are quite ready to continue to do the exact opposite of what ought to be done. The apparent fact that a lot of people can admit to the notion that “the planet needs to be saved” doesn’t seem to matter much anyway. We are not doing anything in order to change our ways. We’re trapped inside a modern coffin here: the tradition of STICKING TO OLD HABITS.

    Why? – Because it’s known as a model for achieving “progress”??!


  12. Magne, what we need is exponential growth — that is, exponential growth in awareness.

  13. Do see the new post over at Eora Borealis.

    A quote: according to new research emerging from many quarters, that our continued devotion to growth above all is, on balance, making our lives worse, both collectively and individually. Growth no longer makes most people wealthier, but instead generates inequality and insecurity.

  14. Oops, the blog post is new but the article it quotes if from the March/April issue of Mother Jones and parts of it look familiar to me. Anyway, I guess another link to it won’t hurt. 🙂

  15. Heh, yeah, I know that article! But it is definitely good to link to it, and to see that it continues to be discussed. 🙂

  16. Almost 20 years ago I was excited by the Brundtland Commission Report, “Our Common Future,” and its central concept, sustainable development. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before Ward Morehouse, a wonderful, wise, fellow member of TOES (The Other Economic Summit) gently explained to me the impossibility of sustainable development (as growth) and therefore that the concept was indeed, as has been frequently mentioned here, an oxymoron.

    Since then I’ve been struggling with ‘sustainability’ – it’s obviously a requirement of the continuation of our species. But is it possible?

    Recently I’ve been involved in setting up a local currency system here in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and stimulated by that activity I’ve been surprised to find myself becoming interested in monetary theory. What I think I’m learning is that economic growth is driven, not so much by greed, as it is by the structure of our particular monetary system.

    Our money is not created by the government, as I had always assumed. It is privately controlled to enrich the few. It is loaned into existence by private financial institutions.

    But money could be, in fact is required by our Constitution to be, created by the Government.
    (Article I Section 8 states: “The Congress shall have Power…To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof….”) This is one of several particular powers given to Congress in order to provide for the ‘general Welfare of the United States’. This is a necessary condition for achieving economic sustainability.

    I’m still trying to come to grips with these ideas, but I want to turn you onto some sources which seem to me to have the picture pretty straight:

    Stephen Zarlenga’s American Monetary Institute at (I note in the current Quarterly of the Institute, Trent Schroyer of Ramapo U. & TOES will be speaking on economic sustainability at the Institute’s September Conference. That will be real good stuff.)

    Bernard Lietaer, The Future of Money

    Thomas H. Greco, Money – Understanding and creating alternatives to legal tender

    Richard Douthwaite, The Ecology of Money

    Michael Linton, The Money Problem

    All of these authors have written extensively about money – the references above are merely a sampling of their work. I’m sure that as you dip into this material, you will become convinced as I have that the system of money we use and take for granted is the ground out of which grow many of our economic and social problems. Michael Linton’s short Money Problem might be a good place to start. Check it out.

  17. Bob,

    Thanks. Very interesting stuff. I will definitely do some reading at those links. As Verdurous mentions above, I do think it’s a topic we need to understand to have a grasp on what’s going on with economic growth. On her blog, Molly Scott Cato has written some posts on such topics as where money comes from:

    I still need to read them actually. :-/ I’m not sure if her UK perspective makes the details different from the US monetary system.

    I’m currently reading her book, Market, Schmarket:

    And I think it may get into the topic as well.

    You must be familiar with their implementation of a local currency in Ithaca, New York. Not sure what their success has been, but the idea certainly seems to make sense as a tool to keep money in a local economy, which usually falls under the heading, “sustainable economic development,” right?

    Are you familiar with the notion of the “steady state economy”? I don’t have a detailed knowledge of it, but the general idea (or something similar) would seem to be necessary for sustainability. I wonder if local currencies would be considered a tool in a steady state economy.

    Edit: You said, “Since then I’ve been struggling with ’sustainability’ – it’s obviously a requirement of the continuation of our species. But is it possible?”

    In something I read yesterday by Steve Salmony, who comments here, he mentions, I think validly, that tribal cultures have often lived sustainably for thousands of years in a given locale. From there, I think it’s a matter of extrapolating to our current culture. Can we do it? I think it’s theoretically possible. Whether we can or will do it in practice is certainly debatable.

  18. Magne,

    You make some important points. I have to go right now, but will come back later with some questions/comments.

  19. Magne Karlsen

    I believe I can come up with a valid argument which goes to conclude that ‘The Globalized Western Capitalist / Consumerist Civilization’ of our times is facing no danger at all of being threatened. No matter what Al Gore and all these other climate change diplomats might say, the truth is: the social / cultural development of a globalized, capitalist civilization, has only just begun. In large parts of Africa, for example, people have only recently started to adapt to the new historical phase, known as globalization. As we’ve got to see these enormous changes as a social / cultural movement (a slow process) in its own right, I can’t see how this development can be stopped.

    If I’m supposed to be thinking positively here, I guess that, at one point, people will have to start to adapt to the fact that their initial adaptation to a globalized, capitalist civilization coming their way, really was of no use anyway, as they are, as of now, sort of adapting to the ways of a civilization which is killing us all … if you know what I mean ..?! 🙂

    It’s ironic, really.

    As much as I agree with Al Gore on the concepts of global warming and manmade climate change, I do not, like he does, believe that we can save the biospheres of this world AND the globalized, western civilization at the same time. Because that will simply not be a sustainable project, I’m afraid … no, I’m sorry. – Al Gore (and a lot of other climate change diplomats and celebrities are simply not taking very realistic views on the obvious problem of ceaseless growth. They do not, quite frankly, want to hear about it.

    I think I am going to spend some time at my home computer (which unfortunately isn’t connected to the internet) and write an essay on this topic, and publish it on the internet when Easter is finally over.

  20. Magne Karlsen

    Trinifar: “Magne, what we need is exponential growth — that is, exponential growth in awareness.”

    – —

    There can be no doubt that “awareness”-levels have reached an all-time-high. However: does that really matter? See: I realize, time and again, that there really can be no talking about the problem of manmade climate change; at least not when it comes to making simple (vocal) statements of what the “manmade” thing comes down to, really, in terms of the lifestyle choices people make.

    I don’t know this for certain. Maybe it’s just me. But I’m definitely not hearing any talk about the “manmade” component of climate change. Those who talk (vocally, aloud) about these problems are definitely way out of line. It’s as if it amounts to anti-social behaviour. The topic is extremely touchy, and people take an extremely sensitive approach upon hearing of such “utter nonsense”. It’s happened to me many times: I’ve tried to say a few words about climate change in public, and result has been one of depression: people have simply walked away. And people have told me, straight out, to shut my mouth up or leave the room, or actually do both: shut up and leave; that’s better.

    But I know this for certain: if we can’t talk about a problem, we can’t do anything about it either.

    It is important to understand that human beings are, essentially, two different things. On the one hand, we are individual persons, sentient beings with a mind of our own, full of private thoughts, ideas, passions, dreams. But on the other hand: we’re all social creatures who need to respond to the social norms of our communities. In Norway that norm is simple: “Shut the fuck up! We don’t want to hear of it!”

    Sad but true… :-/

  21. Hi to all,

    It seems to me that on the one hand we have the work of God: the world we inhabit with its ecosphere, the Earth and the Universe beyond and, on the other hand, we have a construction of humankind: economic globalization.

    At least one sentinel question to raise about these circumstances, I suppose, is this: Can a finite planetary home the size of Earth perpetually sustain the current scale and anticipated growth rate of an artificially designed, manmade, pyramidal construction called the global economy, even to the middle of Century XXI, let alone beyond that point in time?

    {Please note that according to Robert J. Samuelson, the world economy has grown by approximately 20% in the brief period of time since 2001.}

    Therefore, with all due respect to Albert Gore, I find myself in agreement with Magne Karlsen.



    PS: It also appears to me as if God’s work will continue regardless of what human beings now choose to do in space-time; however, Man’s economic globalization project is clearly unsustainable without the functioning ecosystem services and adequate resources of the world provided to humankind for its benefit by God. Is there a question or argument about this one point?

    PPS: It would be nothing more than a fool’s errand to run the risk of INADVERTENTLY ruining God’s work by maximally extending a patently unsustainable program of seemingly endless economic globalization.

  22. Magne, I’m touched by your words and wish I better understood your experience. (I’m always interested in “debugging” human interaction.) I too know people who either don’t believe in human-caused climate change and/or have no interest in discussing it, however, I know others who are not like that

    I thought this was interesting:

    Norway’s active inclusion of civic concerns has led to a green economy that silences radical options; the US’s passive inclusion effectively ignores the environmental movement; the UK’s active exclusion leads to easily placated greens; and, oddly, the passively exclusive government of Germany has led to an empowered, oppositional environmental movement that influences state policy and presses for radical change..

    It’s from which is a review of this book:

    The State and the Global Ecological Crisis
    Edited by John Barry and Robyn Eckersley
    ISBN-13: 978-0-262-52435-3
    ISBN-10: 0-262-52435-X

    Which includes an essay from the authors of this book:

    Green States and Social Movements: Environmentalism in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway
    by John S. Dryzek, David Downes, Christian Hunold, David Schlosberg and Hans-Kristian Hernes
    ISBN13: 9780199249039
    ISBN10: 0199249032

  23. Steve,

    The crux of Magne’s point is (I think):

    …the social / cultural development of a globalized, capitalist civilization, has only just begun. In large parts of Africa, for example, people have only recently started to adapt to the new historical phase, known as globalization. As we’ve got to see these enormous changes as a social / cultural movement (a slow process) in its own right, I can’t see how this development can be stopped.

    Let’s look at this as an organic social problem. I agree things are going to get worse — maybe dramatically so — before they get better and there are going to be permanent negative changes to the planet. It’s a sad state of affairs and sometimes leaves me feeling depressed.

    And Magne’s right about us “sort of adapting to the ways of a civilization which is killing us all.” That’s happening and necessary; after all it wouldn’t do to not adapt. That doesn’t mean we need to follow the lead of the dominant crowd. Let’s lead by adapting especially effectively — both in touching the earth lightly and in communicating knowledge about what is happpening.

    We are trying to turn and slow down a big ship. Constant effort over time is the only way I know how to do that.

  24. Magne,

    Okay, let’s see… You raise several good points. I want to respond to a few:

    1) Habits: Here you also talk about other countries wanting to have the American way of life with all its overconsumption. So would the way out of this point to the US and other grossly overconsuming countries needing to change their habits, so that those countries aspiring to such consumption, looking to countries like the US as what they aspire to, might rethink their aspirations. i.e., could the US and others lead the way, sending a message to others that overconsumption is not the goal to aspire to? I realize getting the US et al. to alter that overconsumption habit is a tall, tall order.

    2) If I’m supposed to be thinking positively here, I guess that, at one point, people will have to start to adapt to the fact that their initial adaptation to a globalized, capitalist civilization coming their way, really was of no use anyway, as they are, as of now, sort of adapting to the ways of a civilization which is killing us all

    This is key, I think. I’m a novice on the topic, but I’m seeing there are some good arguments out there that globalization has actually worsened poverty, widened the gap between rich and poor, etc. If whatever truth is in these arguments (and I think there’s a lot) can be communicated to those developing countries which the US and Many European countries want to involve (or keep involved) in globalization/trade, then maybe they will prefer a different course. I keep mentioning her book, but Molly Scott Cato’s book goes into this.

    3) As much as I agree with Al Gore on the concepts of global warming and manmade climate change, I do not, like he does, believe that we can save the biospheres of this world AND the globalized, western civilization at the same time.

    I very much agree. Gore tells a lot of truth, but isn’t willing to say things like, “Economic growth through globalization is an ecologically unsustainable, hegemonic system which will have to be abandoned in favor of a new approach to business and economics.”

    A very few voices do say that, but they are mostly confined to the “alternative press.” Until such messages make their way into the mainstream press on a regular basis we’ve got real problems. I think even Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who I like and who is a strong environmentalist, still believes in a free-market, capitalist approach. In a talk he gave that I found online he talked only of eliminating subsidies to corporate polluters and the like, but emphasized that he was a “free marketeer.” He said essentially that he just wanted a level playing field, and that without such subsidies the free market would take care of things. I still like him and think he’s done a lot of good, but I was surprised at that. So yeah, the big names in the mainstream are unwilling to confront globalization and the unsustainability of the kind of economic growth we’ve come to know.

    So what will change that? There were really massive anti-globalization protests in recent years, but I don’t see much about that now. I think those protests came together in large part through networking/spreading the word on the Web. So that’s a very powerful tool. But why does the anti-globalization movement seem relatively quiet now? It’s just a guess, but in the US I think the message hasn’t been presented in a way that’s easily grasped by most people. They don’t know what globalization is or why it’s a problem.

    Finally, while we do see articles on globalization or related economic problems or (occasionally) articles on population growth, it seems to me we rarely see all these issues brought together in one package so that people can begin to “connect the dots” and see the whole picture of what’s happening. We need more of that.

  25. Magne Karlsen

    Wow! Thank you, all! I need this. 🙂

    – —

    Trinifar: just one thing: “Norway’s active inclusion of civic concerns has led to a green economy…”

    That’s a lie. An oil, gas, over-fishing and cargo-shipping based economy can never be green. In fact: the idea that “Norway is a green leader of this world,” is based on the fact that an 1980s environment report was named after a former Norwegian prime minister – Brundtland – who is one great talker, but has done nothing what-so-ever in order to cut Norwegian CO2 emissions, for example. That’s right! Not a thing! To the contrary!

  26. Magne Karlsen

    John: ” So would the way out of this point to the US and other grossly overconsuming countries needing to change their habits, so that those countries aspiring to such consumption, looking to countries like the US as what they aspire to, might rethink their aspirations. i.e., could the US and others lead the way, sending a message to others that overconsumption is not the goal to aspire to?”

    Yes. This is exactly what I’m hinting at. The US (and other over-consuming countries) must do something. We cannot expect any African, for example, to take the “manmade climate change debate” seriously, unless we start showing signs of taking it seriously ourselves.

    But okay. Gotta go. Library, uh.


  27. Thanks to all for wonderful comments.

    It appears the overconsumers want to blame the overpopulators, while the overpopulators want to blame the overconsumers for human misery. The environmentalists want to blame the corporate polluters; the corporations want to blame the environmentalists for impeding growth and progress.

    As John suggests, no one wants to “connect the dots” associated with a sensible examination of three disinctly human activities now overspreading Earth: 1) per capita overconsumption of limited resources, 2) skyrocketing global overpopulation and 3) the scale and growth rate of the seemingly endless expansion of large-scale production capabilities on a small, finite planet.

    And as Magne is hinting, the self-proclaimed masters of the universe repeatedly choose not to provide necessary leadership by actually doing things differently from the way they are doing things now. Even though they and we can see that more of the same ol’ business-as-usual behavior we see from them now could do a disservice to our children and coming generations by harboring the potential to threaten life as we know it and their very future, still our leaders subscribe to business-as-usual overgrowth activities that are momentarily successful in our time but, unfortunately, are soon to be recognized as aspects of a patently unsustainable way of life.



  28. Magne, I didn’t quote that bit to say that Norway had a green economy, but to highlite the authors’ point that actively including greens in the discussion appears to have silenced alternative green voices. As if the greens have been coopted. They contrast this with Germany were greens have been passively excluded which counterintuitively has caused the greens to become a force to be reckoned with.

  29. Magne Karlsen

    Okay, I understand. But I truly don’t know what to say. How to respond. … I’ve been thinking – for a very long time – for years, as a matter of fact – that the so-called inclusion of Norwegian greens in the various debates on environmental issues, is more a question of FACE VALUE than anything else. In order to be allowed to have a public (mainstream media) opinion on any such matter, you need, first of all, to be some kind of celebrity. You’ve got to be some big-shot from the entertainment, sports, business, politics or science world, in order to have a say. And if you belong to some green organisation, you’ve got to be the national leader (or vice president) of said organisation in order to get through.

    Now: I guess I’m only one among a great many Norwegian intellectuals who are not getting paid for being concerned about environment issues. You see: that’s another prerequisite for being allowed to open your mouth! Green issues must certainly be your occupation. – Unless you are a pop star, that is. 😉

    Anyway: there are no more than two “official Norwegian greens” that I care to listen two. It is Rasmus Hansson (the general secretary of WWF Norway Branch), and Ingeborg Gjærum (the vice president of Natur og Ungdom) – none of whom are working against the introduction of wind power plants; and both of whom are ready to not talk nonsense about the need to cut down on Norwegian oil and gas production.

    – —

    Trinifar: – Magne, I’m touched by your words and wish I better understood your experience. (I’m always interested in “debugging” human interaction.)

    – —

    Good to hear that. – Anyway: about my personal experience … I’ve spent years bringing up too many taboo topics for potential political and social debate here, I’ve become a taboo myself.

    Honestly. Uh. I should say no more. :-/

  30. “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?”

    Because they are greedy bastards of course. The thing that amazes me are the corporate “green” sites and magazines that are popping up. How can you be eco-conscious and corporate at the same time? Vanity Fair has a Green issue, how sick is that…do people just not get it?


  31. Magne Karlsen

    Steve: “The mass media focuses much too much attention upon whatsoever appears to be politically convenient and economically expedient with regard to the ever expanding, leviathan-like global political economy while remaining virtually blind, deaf and dumb to its patent unsustainability, in its current form, in the small planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit.”

    – —

    You’re absolutely right. But you know: the mass (mainstream) media is just another aspect of the same capitalist corporate jungle that we’re all in the (unyielding) business of critizising here – an activity which is becoming exceedingly more common all over the blogosphere, it seems, as days, weeks and months are passing by. – Good news, I suppose. I don’t know.

    The mass media is just another money-making machine, really. It is run by corporations, it is owned by share holders who demand that the various TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and magazines generate a profit.

    It’s interesting to watch this. Even though you can, from time to time, read newspaper columns and articles critisizing the consumerist culture of our times, you can be absolutely certain of the fact that many of the people who work for the newspaper in question are actually fearing for their job, as they realize that sales figures are going down. Or they understand, from what they hear, that the newspaper isn’t likely to reach the growth goals expected by the shareholders – one excellent reason to start thinking about cutting expenses by means of laying people off.

    Here in Norway we’re having an on-going debate on this issue, right now. Mecon – a British media corporation – bought up a lot of local Norwegian newspapers a couple of years ago. Now: they’re faced with strict revenue growth demands. Even newspapers that go on a profit are facing cuts. – Their profits are not big enough.

    The people who are at work in the mainstream media is up for some balancing act. On the one hand they’ve got to become more critical of the consumerist culture of our times, while on the other hand they must realize that the same consumerist culture which they criticize is the world-view that their bosses’ are banking on for the future. – Not only on their own behalf, but also on behalf of the business; which is indeed the newspaper which is printing these articles, so critical of the capitalist consumerist culture of our times.

    I don’t know. Is it ironic or is it just sad?

  32. Magne Karlsen

    > On the mainstream media critique:

    Quote: “It’s the entire multi-decadal quest to create thinkers, intellectuals, media, and even scientists who express a conservative point of view. If you cling to these information sources, you can continue to ignore mainstream climate science no matter how much certainty–and it’s now at 90 percent–gets ascribed to the conclusion that humans are cooking the planet.”

  33. Dear Magne and Friends,

    Perhaps there is someone in the world who can locate a demographer who would be willing to critique new and unchallenged scientific data.

    More scientific evidence is emerging that appear to indicate the theory of the “demographic transition” is fundamentally flawed. What is most troublesome is the way demographic transition theory may have been erroneously used by politicians and economists OVER THE PAST FIFTY YEARS as a justification for the current scale and anticipated growth rate of economic globalization, an unbridled and seemingly endless expansion of human production activities that could soon become patently unsustainable on Earth.

    The apparently unforeseen scientific research from Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D., and David Pimentel, Ph.D. has not been adequately discussed or subjected to intense scrutiny by experts in human demography.

    Please note that the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, which began in 2001, will end as soon as the research to which I am drawing attention is sensibly refuted. In part, I make this request for the sake of my long-suffering spouse, to whom I long ago made a promise to stop this campaign. At the turn of century I did not imagine that SILENCE could present itself as so formidable an obstacle to the discharge of certain completely unanticipated responsibilites associated with a “duty to warn.”

    Please, someone respond.

    With thanks,


  34. Steve,

    I have not so far found any serious critiques of the Hopfenberg/Pimental work. Are there none as far as you know? I haven’t looked exhaustively yet, and plan to do some additional googling on it in the next week, but am wondering…

    In the meantime, I stumbled on an interesting discussion post on the site, (It’s a sight where people make bets about events far into the future, and the winner’s money goes to a designated charity.) It only seems to be available in Google’s cache, so I don’t know how much longer it will be there, but scroll down to find the highlighted “Russ Hopfenberg” and you’ll find a comment by Jason C. Bradford which cites Joel Cohen offering a caution about conventional demographic prediction, saying that “conventional population projections… ignore food, water, housing, education, health, physical infrastructure, religion, values, institutions, laws, family structure, domestic and international order, and the physical and biological environment.”

    And yet people take projections like those of the UN as though they were something comfortably to rely on. Hmmm…

  35. Dear John,

    INCREDIBLY, you will not find discussions in professional journals by demographers and population scientists on the evidence of Hopfenberg and Pimentel. From inside the walls of academe, there comes only deafening silence.

    What I have been appealing for is this: expressions of intellectual honesty, scientific integrity and a professional commitment to good science itself.

    Incidentally, Dr. Jason C. Bradford visited Chapel Hill three years ago this week. In 2004 Jason Bradford, Alan Thornhill, Executive Director of the Society for Conservation Biology, and Russ Hopfenberg were featured speakers at the 3rd Annual Earth Day Summit on The Human Population.

    At this point in time, for the UN Population Division demographers to continue parading projections based upon what appears to be fundamentally flawed “DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION THEORY,” given the unchallenged evidence from Hopfenberg and Pimentel, at least to me, amounts to a dereliction of duty……………..a transgression with potentially profound implications for the future of life as we know it on Earth.



  36. Magne Karlsen

    There are so many deeply important topics belonging to the humanities, which – within the academies – are received with a deafening silence.

    Consider this: we know that – under normal circumstances – the world’s population is going to reach 9 billion in forty years’ time. But does anyone know of any research going on, on what might be the outcome of a significant population growth like this? – I’m thinking in terms of land use, for example: does anyone try to analyse the environmental implications of the expected population growth? – How about the social and cultural implications? – As far as I know, all scholars simply nod at the population projections, calling them facts of life, but not thinking actively about real life implications of what is known.

    Why? – Well, probably because the very thought of a forty percent increase of the world’s population is far too nauseating to start pondering over. Plodding at this big issue puts the scholar in a particularly awkward position, I guess. – Especially now that we’re about to come to terms with the environmental devastation 6 1/2 billion people can muster.

  37. Dear Magne,

    As difficult as it is for me to report, it appears that my no-so-great generation of elders will be remembered for making the most colossal mistake in human history. That is to say, during the course of my adult, illusion-filled life, the leaders of my generation have repeatedly obscured and magnificently failed to make comprehensible the formidable global challenges posed to humanity in these early years of Century XXI……..challenges to the future of life as know it on Earth which continue to be ignored even though certain clear and present dangers are now visible on the far horizon.

    By staying the same ol’ business-as-usual course of adamantly insisting upon 1) perpetual increases in per human consumption of limited resources, 2) endless expansion of the global economy on a small finite planet and 3) unregulated growth of absolute global human population numbers, we could be leading our children down a ‘primrose path’ no reasonable human being would ever choose to take. What a tragedy!



  38. Sent: Tue, 17 Apr 2007 1:53 PM

    America the Complacent.
    by Jim Lydecker
    PO Box 10755
    Napa, California 94581

    “We’re an ignorant nation right now. I don’t think we’re bright enough to preserve our democracy, our republic. We’re in serious danger.” Walter Cronkite

    “A crisis is a problem that was ignored. All great crises were ignored until it was too late.” Mathew Simmons

    complacency: A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of impending danger.

    Everyday, news is released about something threatening life as we know it. It may receive front page status or be the lead-in of a newscast before disappearing in a day or two giving the impression the problem no longer exists or warrants coverage.

    Most likely, however, it is never covered by the mainstream media and is relegated to some obscure scientific or economic journal/web site.

    An example of the former was the April 6 release by the UN climate report from Brussels. Nothing less than apocalyptical, it painted the most bleak future so far. It got world-wide headlines the next day before disappearing from the mainstream media.

    Read the rest here:

  39. sushil_yadav

    In response to your post on Growth, Development, Environmental Destruction and Happiness I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our minds and environment. Please read.

    The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
    Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

    Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

    Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

    A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

    A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

    To read the complete article please follow any of these links :





  40. Sushil,

    I appreciate your comment, but you did post it here once before.

    Feel free to jump into the discussion though. I’d be interested in your additional thoughts on anything here. 🙂

  41. Uncle Dave Foreman’s Around the Campfire

    The Rewilding Institute

    Issue Seven March 31, 2007

    To the Edge of the Universe With Julian Simon

    In some circles, the late Julian Simon has fame as a Dragon Slayer. The Dragon that Sir Julian slew was the dread Doomsdayer. The largest and most fearsome of its many poisonous heads was Ehrlich. Not only did Sir Julian lop Ehrlich off with his magic sword Blind Optimism, he pried back the thick scale Malthus that covered the Black Jewel Prudence, an evil vat of pessimism and restraint, and pierced it with his eternally shining lance point Pollyanna, thereby showing Doomsdayer’s heart had no power. In the Fairy Tale world of Wall Street Journal cornucopians, this is the new favorite fable. But it has much wider acceptance than the libertarian right, witness The New York Times editorial welcoming the 300 millionth American last fall.”

    Read the rest here:

  42. Magne Karlsen

    – —

    “ECOCIDE FOR A QUICK BUCK” – that’s a very good headline, John.

    Here’s what’s happening in oil-rich Norway: the governing Labour party has just made a promise to cut emissions by 30% within 2020, and make sure that Norway becomes a so-called “climate neutral” country by 2050. Problem is: they’ve also decided against making any domestic emissions cuts. They’re simply going to buy a hell of a lot of climate credits, thus “helping” China, Africa, Eastern Europe, etc. do what we’re not going to do at home; ie. make real-world emissions cuts.

    Gro Harlem Brundtland (you’ve heard a lot of good things about her, haven’t you?) actually said that all those people who insisted on domestic emissions cuts here, were “fools.”

    So: I’m a fool. “Climate neutral, my ass!” is what I’m saying. That’s exactly how foolish I am. Unless Norway – as well as all other western overpolluters – start cutting their domestic emissions, there is no way … no way to bring global warming to a halt … we all know that, but hey! – Money talks.

    We’ve up against an economic criterion of rationality here. That’s not philosophy! It’s big business, and nothing else matters.

    What’s going to happen to this planet if the USA should choose to look to Norway and duly come up with the same solution: one of not making any domestic emissions cuts but “become the world’s greenest nation” by means of buying enough climate credits to match its domestic emissions?

    I mean: what is this? Is it money magic? Should I call it currency voodoo?

  43. Magne Karlsen

    – “Today’s acquisition is an important strategic move which supports our global growth ambition and increases our reserve bookings in the long term,” said Helge Lund, chief executive of Statoil.

    – —

    Norwegian Environment Organizations have their spokespeople spreading all over the press these days, all expressing their concerns about the hypocrisy of Statoil. These organizations are also making it perfectly clear that Norwegian policy-makers can and should be committed to making domestic CO2-cuts. –

    Leading Norwegian politicians are mute on both topics. Money, that’s funny.

  44. Travel: the new tobacco

    The founder of Rough Guides now believes that our addiction to ‘binge flying’ is killing the planet

    Mark Ellingham, founder of the Rough Guides and the man who encouraged a generation of travellers to pack a rucksack and explore the world, has compared the damage done by tourism to the impact of the tobacco industry.

    Ellingham now says travelling is so environmentally destructive that there is no such thing as a genuinely ethical holiday. He wants the industry to educate travellers about the damage their holidays do to the environment. The development he regrets most is the public’s appetite for what he calls ‘binge-flying’.

    ‘The tobacco industry fouled up the world while denying [it] as much as possible for as long as they could,’ said Ellingham. ‘If the travel industry rosily goes ahead as it is doing, ignoring the effect that carbon emissions from flying are having on climate change, we are putting ourselves in a very similar position to the tobacco industry’……………………………….

    Amelia Hill, social affairs correspondent,
    The Observer
    Sunday May 6 2007

  45. Burning the Furniture by Richard Heinberg
    March 2007

    “A soon-to-be-released study by the Energy Watch Group in Germany on the future of global coal supplies has implications so surprising and far-reaching that energy policymakers may take years to digest it. This essay is intended to help speed that process. The report’s central conclusions are that minable global coal reserves are much smaller than is commonly thought, and that a peak in world coal production is likely within only ten to fifteen years.

    I will first offer some context for appreciating these conclusions, by way of some general information about global coal usage. Then I will describe the basis for the report’s conclusions, and finally will attempt to draw out some of the implications (not discussed by the report’s authors) for world energy supply and climate policy………………..”

  46. Steve,

    The Heinberg essay looks well worth reading, In Al Bartlett’s famous talk, Arithmetic, Population and Energy, he points out that many pronouncements about having coal reserves enough to last, say, 300 years at current levels of extraction, are highly misleading, simply because extraction rates are increasing due to population growth and increasing per capita consumption, So current rates don’t apply and, amazingly, when you do the math, accounting for the increasing rates, those 500 years plummet to levels more like 50 years. Those pronouncements talking about “current rates” appear to me to be intentionally misleading. Anyway, I’ll read the Heinberg essay as soon as I can.

  47. Dear Friends,

    My not-so-great generation of elders appear to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves. We are the “what’s in it for me?” generation. We demonstrate precious little regard for the integrity of Earth; precious little willingness to actually protect the environment from irreversible degradation; precious little serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the understanding that we are no more or less than human and have “feet of clay”.

    We live in a soon to be unsustainable way in our planetary home and we are proud of it, thank you very much. Certainly, we will “have our cake and eat it, too”. We will fly private jets, live in McMansions, go to our distant hideouts and risk nothing of value to us. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear them, see them, or speak of them. We, economic powerbrokers, bought-and-paid-for politicians and our many minions in the mass media will meet you with hysterical deafness, willful blindness and elective mutism. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our ‘rights’ to the unrestrained consumption of Earth’s limited resources; to expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; to encourage the unbridled growth of the human species so that where there are now 6+ billion people, soon we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps 90 billion into the future, if that is what we desire.

    We are self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe. We have no regard for human limits or Earth’s limitations, thank you very much. Please understand that we do not want anyone to present us with scientific evidence that we might be living in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making…… a manmade world filling up with distinctly human enterprises which appear the be approaching a point in human history when THE INCREASE in global consumption, production and propagation activities of the human species becomes patently unsustainable in the world God has blessed us to inhabit….. and not to overwhelm, I suppose.



  48. Pingback: Power of Thinking « factfictionfancy