The end of growth is why we need to re-invent our banking and monetary systems. Both have collapsed and won’t survive. Each have been founded on a single untruth: infinite growth. The bank bailouts and money printing are simply delaying what everyone knows: our old systems are bankrupt.
But the Earth isn’t bankrupt and will continue to provide for us in a reasonable manner. We just need to create the new banking and monetary systems that reflect this reasonable, sustainable way of nature.
Source: Post Carbon Institute
Heinberg’s overarching message is that the current economic downturn is not temporary and that, because we have now reached fundamental, unalterable ecological limits, economic growth is gone for good…our entire economy is now fundamentally addicted to debt and to continued, indefinite growth. Oops.
Heinberg goes on to explain that because we’re reaching peak…well…peak everything, and because economic growth relies on natural resources and the Earth’s ability to process our wastes, this growth simply can’t continue. He says that our money has come to represent claims on goods and services that just don’t exist. Through debt and “fiat” currency, the amount of money in the world just gets bigger and bigger, while the Earth’s total stock of resources remains the same. Something has to give.
Unlike previous authors, going back to Thomas Malthus, then later Dennis and Donella Meadows, Herman Daly, and more recently, Tim Jackson and Gus Speth—to all of whom Heinberg gives their due—he’s not just saying that economic growth should stop or that it will stop. He’s saying that it in fact has stopped, whether we like it or not. Discussion in the popular media aside, this is not a choice. Physical laws dictate that all living things must stop growing at some point and, our adamant resistance notwithstanding, the human species has reached that point.
But haven’t we heard before how growth will stop because we’ve run out of resources? (Think The Population Bomb.) So far, it hasn’t happened. Innovation (say the business people), substitution (say the economists), and efficiency (say the scientists) have always allowed us to overcome any resource limitations and advance along the path of progress and growth—and they will continue to do so in the future. But Heinberg says, not this time. Today, innovation mostly just involves tweaking existing technologies. And some materials fundamental to economic growth—most notably fossil fuels—simply have no substitutes. And efficiency can be used to decouple energy use from economic growth only to a certain point.