I’ve always wondered about this. I distinctly remember the feeling of intense anxiety I felt during the early 2000s recession when I first realized that the world’s current economic system basically requires endless growth to function.
I LOVE thinking like this - we have finite growth, because we have finite resources. There are, however, a few problems with this line of thinking:
First, a GIANT percentage of the world’s population still lives in poverty. Stopping growth now stops them from ever getting out of poverty, without a massive redistribution of wealth. Growth is the only plausible way the entire planet gets out of poverty. Hoping the resources run out soon is basically hoping that the poor stay poor.
Secondly, there have ALWAYS been people, since Malthus and indeed much earlier, who felt that the end of our resources was imminent. Its always curious to me how people assume (hope?) it’ll happen in their lives. It’s sorta like the economics version of end-of-the-worldism. What makes you think it’s going to happen in your lifetime? We could also extend that growth through solar, wind, and tidal power, managed renewable forestry, increased urbanization and the return of much land to indigenous people, improved agriculture, etc. etc. Indeed, history has proven this is the more likely course.
See, if you read any Buckminster Fuller, he approaches this question differently. It’s not growth and progress that are the problem. It’s the static nature of our society- in other words we get accustomed to one way of utilizing resources, say, burning coal. When in fact growth demands that we find new technologies, and use our current resources to find new ways of living.
If the world right now can support only a billion people in relative wealth and health, it’s our obligation to discover new resources and means of using them, so that we extend our abilities to support more people.
He was very concerned with overpopulation but also though that if we focused our time and energy on NEW ways of powering the earth, NEW ways of growing and processing food, NEW technologies that offer greater returns, that we could easily do all this for more people.
For example, wood heat doesn’t offer as much energy as coal heat. Both of these use more resources for a smaller return than say, solar power, which has a very small investment. If you’re trying to give everyone in the world a hot shower, black barrels in the sun warming the water takes a fuckload less resources than burning wood or coal to heat that water.
If you apply that analogy across the board to all our energy needs, suddenly it makes sense that new ideas and technologies will unlock new resources we may not even know we have, let alone how to use, at this time.
I am very much a proponent of underpopulation. I think that a massive anti-breeding campaign is overdue. But a large part of that issue would involve educating and liberating women worldwide, giving them ways to be valuable in their communities without breeding. And there are so many places that have cultural beliefs which keep women without that ability, so many of the aid organizations prefer sending bibles instead of IUDs or abortion equipment and the pill.
We have to make it preferable to women to create and learn, rather than reproduce and obey.