I want to believe in eternal economic growth. Given what humanity is facing with climate change and other consequences of our collective consumption, it must be awfully comforting to have faith in a cornucopian future where no one ever goes wanting. Especially if all we have to do is more of the same, sticking to capitalism’s exploitative playbook. I used to have that faith. I was a worshipper of technological progress and its potential to overcome all the social and environmental problems that accompany exponentially increasing population and consumption. I also used to believe in the Easter Bunny. Unlike Michael Liebreich (author of “The Secret of Eternal Growth,” the article I’m rebutting), however, I paid enough attention to the evidence to put aside such fantasies.
I intend to provide a blow-by-blow analysis of Liebreich’s contentions, but I feel compelled to start with a gem near the end of his article. In a one-sentence paragraph that summarizes his thesis, he writes, “The bottom line here is that the world’s most feted scientists and economists have shown that economic growth is consistent with environmental protection and the mitigation of climate change.” Here’s a small point: his use of a financial metaphor (“bottom line”) may reveal something about how much the culture of money influences his thinking. But here’s the bigger point. Really?!? What the hell is he talking about?
Let’s start with his claim about scientists. It’s a safe bet he hasn’t read the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. This article appeared in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience in December 2017. In the article, which was endorsed by more than 15,000 scientists at the time it was published, the authors write, “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…