— Edward Abbey
There is so much to be disturbed about in this presidential campaign. Certainly Clinton’s status quo attachments and Trump’s complete unfitness for the job are major concerns. Those aspects — the outrageous personalities, hints of scandal and smears — are the focus of the campaign coverage and that leads to a disturbing dearth of coverage of deeply important issues.
Many in the clean energy and climate action movement have expressed well-justified concern and frustration that climate change received so little mention. Other than Hillary Clinton bringing up clean energy as a major economic opportunity in the opening half hour of the first debate, there has been virtually no mention of these issues in any of the three debates. This was a huge missed opportunity. However, there is another aspect that’s even more damaging and insidious — the constant campaign drumbeat to grow, grow, grow the economy.
Both candidates and nearly all media personalities fail to recognize that an economy based on perpetual status quo growth is fundamentally broken. We live on a planet of finite natural resources and yet worship an economic model that requires continuous escalation in the consumption of natural resources! And most world leaders keep their heads in the sand on this one choosing to believe that we can defy the laws of physics without destroying the planet.
Either our presidential candidates don’t understand the physics or they’re just unwilling to talk about this issue because growing the economy has become such an untouchable third rail in politics. I call this “Ostrich Politics’ and it’s rampant.
Believe me I get it. Challenging the limitless growth model is politically risky. When my fiancé John Kitzhaber was Governor of Oregon we did talk about it, did touch that third rail. And yep, there was some big blowback. It was difficult and painful and in the end status quo and old thinking prevailed. But at least for a time there was a different, more honest and substantive conversation. Important seeds were planted during those fertile discussions.
We have never faced a time in which it has been more important for our leaders to take some political risks and address the really deep issues and the broken and dangerous systems that we continue to stick to.
Our world is already dealing with climate change refugees. Right here in the United States entire communities are already being displaced by rising sea level. Recent surveys and reports show that under our current grow, grow, grow system by 2020 we will have lost two-thirds of all wildlife compared to 1970 populations. Take a moment to wrap your mind around that one – a full three quarters of non-human life forms will have been wiped off our planet in just 50 years.
Under such conditions ostrich politics and incrementalism just aren’t good enough.
Fortunately, despite the fact that mainstream media and status quo politicians won’t touch the delusional third rail of limitless growth many forward thinking leaders are doing just that.
An outstanding report titled Life Beyond Growth by the Donella Meadows Institute, provides an overview of how we became addicted to the limitless growth model and how, beginning in the 1970s, awareness about the danger of that model began to mushroom.
The report does a great job exploring the question of what kind of growth we need and what aspects of the economy actually need to shrink in order to increase the health of the planet and well-being of its people. In other words, growth of what and for what? One excerpt from the report states:
“But what kind of ‘growth’ is necessary? …. [To] create an economy of well-being rather than an economy based on unending economic growth. On a finite planet, where all life (including human life) is dependent on finely tuned ecosystems, unending physical growth is categorically impossible. However, the quest for human development, happiness, and wellbeing presents limitless possibilities.”
In recent years various initiatives and thought leaders have coalesced into a New Economy movement, some elements of which can be seen here.
Lots of people, organizations and even countries are already making headway in replacing the cancerous limitless growth system with a muscular, healthier, saner alternative.
This movement is global in scope and gaining momentum and you can be part of it through any number of simple actions:
- Read the Life Beyond Growth
- Challenge the limitless growth paradigm. Have conversations about this with your family, friends and colleagues.
- Support the organizations listed on the link above and/or sign up for their free newsletters.
- Like and follow 3E’s new New Economy Facebook page which provides tons of information for social entrepreneurs and new economy students and advocates.
Finally, one of the most important steps you can take it to believe! The economy is not an act of God or a force of Nature. It is a human made construct. We have and do prune and shape it all the time and we can do so again. We can groom and train it in a direction that heals our planet and improves the quality of our lives.
Our natural resources are not limitless. Thank goodness this presidential campaign isn’t either! Our human creativity however, knows no bounds. We can do this.