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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIV–Growth and Denial: A Bad Combination

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIV

Knossos, Greece (1993). Photo by author.

Growth and Denial: A Bad Combination

Today’s Contemplation is a glimpse into some conversation between myself and another around growth, denial, and differences in what can/should be advocated for.

Post by GW:
Just saw the sign coming in to town which reads “Country close to the city” it should read “Condos close to the city”

RB: …we need to make sure we are seeing the most responsible planning surrounding that development as we can. I have a growing feeling that some of our areas of intensification are both deviating from our growth strategies and will not be receiving needed services in a timely fashion to ensure complete communities, maximal livability, and minimal consequences.

I have long held a belief that spending time, energy, and breath just opposing growth and development is a waste. Understand the need (and legal requirements) to grow, understand the planning processes and facets of private ownership, and spend your time advocating for the best possible planning to ensure the best possible community living experience as that growth gets underway.

Me: RB, may I suggest some homework to help expand your perspective on the issue of growth and the negative consequences we tend to ignore/deny (and has led us into ecological overshoot):

1) This presentation, entitled Exponential Growth Arithmetic, Population and Energy, by the late Dr. Albert Bartlett that explains our blindness to how exponential growth works and how it has led us into overshoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZA9Hnp3aV4.

2) This 30-year update to the 1972 Limits to Growth study by MIT researchers; pay particular attention to the Business-As-Usual scenario that we seem to be tracking almost exactly and the negative consequences of this: https://www.amazon.ca/Limits-Growth-30-Year-Donella-Meadows/dp/193149858X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=82KI5K3MPE34&keywords=30+year+update+limits+to+growth&qid=1700239657&s=books&sprefix=30+year+update+limits+to+growth%2Cstripbooks%2C97&sr=1-1. You can find a synopsis of this text here: https://donellameadows.org/archives/a-synopsis-limits-to-growth-the-30-year-update/.

3) This 1988 academic research text, The Collapse of Complex Societies, by archaeologist Joseph Tainter that highlights the recurrent/cyclical decline that has occurred to every complex society to date due to the diminishing returns that invariably arises as a population attempts to continue growing beyond the resources (mostly energy) that can support it: https://www.amazon.ca/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Joseph-Tainter/dp/052138673X. Summary notes can be found here: https://olduvai.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Collapse-of-Complex-Societies.pdf.

4) This 1980 text, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, by William Catton Jr. that outlines the biological principles that invariably impact species that grow beyond their environment’s ability to support them. https://www.amazon.ca/Overshoot-Ecological-Basis-Revolutionary-Change-ebook/dp/B00VVH4UGG/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3UNABBTCM5RCJ&keywords=overshoot&qid=1700239867&sprefix=overshoot%2Caps%2C500&sr=8-1. Summary notes can be found here: https://olduvai.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Overshoot_-The-Ecological-Basis-of-Revolutionary-Change.pdf

NG: Steve Bull, a more than likely nuclear war should damper population growth.

Me: RB, I would also advise digging deeper and looking behind the curtain with respect to what has ‘supported’ our extraordinary growth the past couple of decades (mostly financialisation of our economic systems; i.e., ginormous amounts of debt that has turned into nothing more than Ponzi financing to keep growth afloat to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars currently — a perfect example of what Tainter refers to as diminishing returns and is being felt increasingly by the masses due to the inevitable weight of price inflation/currency devaluation) and centuries (mostly the leveraging and expeditious drawdown of a one-time cache of hydrocarbon energy that has provided a surplus of energy that has allowed us to continue to pursue exponential growth beyond our natural carrying capacity, but that is declining/disappearing at an alarming rate (dive into the issue of Peak Oil) — it’s no surprise that nations rich in these resources are the focus of so much geopolitical chaos.

Then there’s the symptom predicaments of overshoot and the various planetary boundaries we’ve blow past in extraordinary expansion throughout the globe. See this: https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html

That most believe such growth can continue without dire consequences is not surprising given the amount of conditioning and propaganda we are exposed to about growth (particularly by those that profit from it). That we cannot even challenge such orthodoxy speaks volumes as to our mass denial.

RB: Steve Bull, you and I have had this conversation in past.

If our society suddenly shifts to establishing and enforcing population controls and an economic system that isn’t dependant on infinite growth, I will change my tune.

Until then, I am going to focus my advocacy based on existing realities for best possible outcomes.

Me: RB, we will have to agree to disagree, once again, regarding what is ‘best’ to advocate for. While I would contend that we (especially in so-called ‘advanced’ and ‘emerging’ economies) are unlikely to willingly pursue ‘degrowth’, or even halting growth (for a variety of reasons, but perhaps mostly because we all want the Ponzi to continue), I would also argue that accepting it and trying to work with it is akin to being complicit in mass suicide…which is what the increasing amount of evidence regarding our overshoot is suggesting.

RB: To each their own, of course. And I am most certainly not disregarding your concerns, which are absolutely reasonable. I just have to pick my battles, so to speak. If that makes me complicit, so be.

Me: RB, fair enough. Me, I prefer not to be overly complicit in this tragedy we are embarked upon as a species. While we can ignore/deny the laws of physics, biological principles, and pre/historic evidence, they are ever-present, unforgiving, and will eventually catch up with us.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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