Intelligent Growth or Suicidal Growth?

URL http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article2287-Int...
Summary An economist recently insisted that a third runway at Heathrow Airport was a good thing. There was no discussion of the environmental costs of such growth, either to local residents or to the climate.

An economist speaking on Radio 4 in the UK recently insisted that a third runway at Heathrow Airport was a good thing, otherwise we would “risk our competitive advantage, which we are already in danger of losing to France”. There was no discussion of the environmental costs of such growth, either to local residents or to the climate. How much longer can this suicidal thinking possibly hold sway, and how can we persuade economists and governments to see ‘growth’ in another light?

IT HAS ALWAYS amazed me how our culture seems to have immense difficulty in accepting one very simple fact: that the Earth is a finite sphere which cannot suffer our depredations without limit. Or, to put it differently, that our planet simply cannot sustain our obsession with converting more and more of her ‘resources’ into accumulating legions of shiny, mostly useless, over-packaged products. One instance of this lack of comprehension haunts me still: a chance meeting in a railway carriage with the bursar of one of the Oxford colleges some thirty years ago when I was a young undergraduate at Durham University. We chatted on amiably enough until, discovering that he was an economist, I casually mentioned the notion of limits to growth. I shall never forget the vehement, almost apoplectic objections that he sputtered out in an admirably English display of controlled anger and fury. Clearly, I had threatened perhaps the most dearly held but unexamined assumption that lies like a sleeping dragon at the core of our rapidly spreading Western worldview – namely that Nature’s seemingly infinite storehouse is there for us to use without let or hindrance for whatever purposes we see fit.

Resurgence 247 March/April 2008

Stephan Harding is the Resident Ecologist at Schumacher College, where he is also the co- ordinator of the MSc in Holistic Science. Stephan is the author of Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia, published by Green Books.