Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Drastic times call for hopeful measures

Thomas Friedman in the Times brings up a similar point to the one in the Alternet article I linked to the other day: that the current economic crisis shows that the economic-growth model of the last 50 years has run its course. Money quote:
We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore.
The piece points out that economic growth based on the exploitation of our natural resources isn't really wealth at all, but an elaborate Ponzi scheme, the consequences of which we pass on to our children.
“Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”
The solution is sustainability, on the macro level:
For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.
This of course is what this blog and other sustainability and frugality blogs have been advocating all along: living within our means, taking out only as much as we need, not wasting, recycling and reusing as much as possible. Unfortunately, the mechanisms of society as a whole are built to use exploitative and non-sustainable means and technologies. Changing that will be our biggest challenge.

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