“The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened, is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.”

–George Eliot, Silas Marner

It’s been ten years since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008. Print, online, and broadcast news media have dutifully featured articles and programs commemorating the crisis, wherein commentators mull why it happened, what we learned from it, and what we failed to learn. Nearly all of these articles and programs have adopted the perspective of conventional economic theory, in which the global economy is seen as an inherently stable system that experiences an occasional market crash as a result of greed, bad policies, or “irrational exuberance” (to use Alan Greenspan’s memorable phrase). From this perspective, recovery from the GFC was certainly to be expected, even though it could have been impeded by poor decisions.

Some of us have a different view. From our minority perspective, the global economy as currently configured is inherently not just unstable, but unsustainable. The economy depends on perpetual growth of GDP, whereas we live upon a finite planet on which the compounded growth of any material process or quantity inevitably leads to a crash. The economy requires ever-increasing energy supplies, mostly from fossil fuels, whereas coal, oil, and natural gas are nonrenewable, depleting, and climate-changing resources.

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