“Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.
Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.”
I found this calculation in a recent article in The Guardian by George Monbiot. In the article, titled “It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up,” Monbiot talks about what many of us know intuitively–unlimited growth just doesn’t work. More importantly, though, Monbiot goes on to say that an unlimited growth is so accepted as our current way of doing things that we just don’t even talk about it anymore. The great irony here, of course, is that Monbiot is talking about it. We can hope that articles like this one (just like blogs like this one) can help bring the true costs of growth back into the national conversation.
There are also organizations that are trying to tackle the problem head on. Take the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, for example–you can find their policy goals here.
We’ve obviously decided that the problems of unlimited growth are worth talking about. Now it’s about getting other people to talk about it, and then deciding what to do about it.