(This is the seventh of a series of posts about ending our debt based monetary system and reckless emphasis on perpetual economic growth. Dave Gardner makes the ecological case for ending our addiction to continuous economic growth.)
Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth
2011, Directed and produced by Dave Gardner
Growthbusters is the inspiring story of Dave Gardner’s efforts to challenge conservative Colorado Springs’ failed growth promotion policies. The film also takes a broader theoretical look at the overall failure of economic growth to solve the global economic crisis.
While Gardner is clearly an environmental crusader concerned about the link between unlimited growth on carbon emissions, resource scarcity and species extinction, he inserts a heavy dose of economic reality into the discussion. All of us involved with local government have heard the same insipid assertions about the urgent need to cut corporate tax and regulations to attract new industry and jobs, as well as the need to spend to spend billions of dollars on new infrastructure to accommodate the hoards of people we want to attract to our cities and towns.
In reality, the people and institutions who promote growth most heavily are the only ones who benefit from it – at the expense of everyone else. This includes real estate developers who derive profits from building more homes, office blocks and shopping center; the mining and fossil fuel companies that fuel this economic activity, as well as heating all the new homes and powering the new cars; and the banks who finance all this. In other words the super rich.
The Population Bomb
In addition to tackling the pro-growth agenda head on, Gardner also makes the important link between exploding population growth and environmental degradation. Paul Ehrlich, who appears briefly in the film, warned in his 1970 book The Population Bomb that mankind was rapidly outstripping the Earth’s natural resources. Dennis Meadows, who directed the 1973 Club of Rome project resulting in the book Limits to Growth, also appears. Based on advanced computer modeling, this controversial report warned forty years ago that population growth and resource scarcity would cause the global economy to falter at the beginning of the 21st century. Apparently, as Meadows reminds us, the 2008 global economic crisis was right on schedule.
As Gardner, Ehrlich, Meadows and other experts point out, humankind is living beyond our means, “liquidating” resources we should be should be saving for our children and grandchildren. If we were still growing all our food locally, as we were at the beginning of the 20th century, it would be obvious there is no longer enough land in cultivation to feed 7 billion people. However because of globalization, most of the industrialized world has no idea where their food comes from. While the one billion people who die of starvation or gradual malnutrition are virtually invisible.
Family Planning: the Best Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Gardner doesn’t advocate for mandatory population control like they have in China. However he argues strongly for major environmental groups like the Sierra Club to use their public profile to begin educating governments and communities about making informed decisions around family size.
There’s no way we can possibly change enough light bulbs or plant enough trees to compensate for all the babies born to our children and our children’s children. Population control is a critical ecological issue. The “official” environmental movement is letting us all down by refusing to take it up.
New Paths Forward
Gardner himself does his part. When he’s not running for city council or making movies, he’s out in the street distributing free Endangered Species Condoms on the street. The condoms come in choice of packaging featuring endangered panthers, polar bears and cute critters.
He also encourages people to join the Transition movement to help in strengthening their communities, re-localizing economic life and rebuilding skills that don’t depend on corporations and fossil fuels.
Hi Doc – When I was a child in school the answer to the question “What is the population of the United States?” was “230 million”.
The population of the planet is two and a half times larger than when I was a kid. All in my one lifetime. Regards.
I guess it depends on the year. When I was in 7th grade, the number we had to memorize was 180 million.
Hi Doc – I made a typo – the answer was 120 million (not 230!) Sorry. Regards