Growth Is Bumping Against Profound Physical Limits

This article says so much is such little space that I’m going to post it in it’s entirety, all emphasis mine:

Growth is bumping against profound physical limits


Chennai. July 2: It used to be that with one stone, you could hit two birds, named More and Better, roosting on the same branch. Not so now, because “Better has flown a few trees over to make her nest.” As a result, “if you’ve got the stone of your own life, or your own society, gripped in your hand,” you have to choose between the two, advises Bill McKibben in “˜Deep Economy’ (

Growth is no longer making most people wealthier, but instead generating inequality and insecurity, he observes. “And growth is bumping against physical limits so profound ““ like climate change and peak oil ““ that continuing to expand the economy may be impossible; the very attempt may be dangerous.”

Every action of a modern life burns fossil fuel, rues McKibben. “Before coal, economic production was limited by energy inputs, almost all of which depended on the production of biomass: food for humans and farm animals, and fuel wood for heating and certain industrial processes,” reads a quote of Jeffrey Sachs, cited in the book. A turning point in human history was the invention of “˜the first practical steam engine’ in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen. “He burned coal, and used the steam pressure built up in his boiler to drive a pump that, in turn, drained water from coal mines, allowing them to operate far more cheaply and efficiently”¦ His engine replaced a team of 500 horses walking in a circle.”

Our current energy demands, driven by “˜growth’ imperatives, are not limited to what we can grow. We bank on fossil energy, or what had been grown eons before, “on all those millions of years of ancient biology squashed by the weight of time till they’d turned into strata and pools and seams of hydrocarbons, waiting for us to discover them.”

The diminished availability of fossil fuel is not the only limit we face, says the author. For, “even before we run out of oil, we’re running out of planet.” Environmental damage is happening in a thousand different ways, he warns. “Nitrogen runoff, mercury contamination, rainforest destruction, species extinction, and water shortage” are only a few examples. The overarching threat is “˜climate change’ caused by global warming ““ “˜the gaseous remains of oil fields and coal beds acting like an insulating blanket.’

More is really better only up to a certain point, argues McKibben. “Money consistently buys happiness right up to about $10,000 per capital income,” he says, citing research. “After that point the correlation disappears.” Past the point of basic needs being met, the “˜satisfaction’ data scramble in mind-bending ways, one learns. In a “˜quality of life’ survey, nearly three-fourth of the answers were non-materialistic.

“The best predictor of happiness was health, followed by factors like being married. Income seemed not to matter at all in France, Holland, or England, and it was only the seventh or eighth most important predictor in Italy, Ireland, and Denmark.”

Closer home, homeless people in Kolkata ranked among the lowest in “˜life satisfaction’; surprisingly, however, their “˜satisfaction’ doubled “when they moved into a slum, at which point they were basically as satisfied with their lives as a sample of college students drawn from 47 nations.” Original Article Here


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