Archive for the Category ◊ Limits to Growth ◊

• Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Source: Post Carbon Institute

As a friend of Post Carbon Institute, I want to make sure you know about “Climate After Growth: Why Environmentalists Must Embrace Post-Growth Economics & Community Resilience,” which Rob Hopkins (the founder of the Transition Movement) and I just released.

In it, we argue that as long as our elected officials continue to prioritize economic growth above all else no meaningful climate policies will be enacted. The risks of further inaction cannot be overstated.

But chasing after robust economic growth is a fool’s errand. Those days are over. In fact, we are are experiencing dramatic “new normals” in our energy, climate, and economic systems that require whole new strategies.

In the paper, Rob and I make the case that the environmental community must recognize these “new normals” and adjust its strategies accordingly. A key component, in our view, must be a focus on building community resilience.

By making community resilience a top priority, environmentalists can offer an alternative to the “growth at all costs” story, one in which taking control of our basic needs locally has multiple benefits. Community resilience-building can create new enterprises and meaningful work, and increase well-being even as GDP inevitably falters. It can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, while addressing social and economic inequities. And it can strengthen the social cohesion necessary to withstand periods of crisis.

I hope that you can take the time to review “Climate After Growth” and share it with others.

• Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Bleak Picture of Endless GrowthThis is a quote from a very powerful interview with Richard Heinberg about his newest book, Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth.

The debate in our politics has been: how can we get more energy resources and how can we grow the economy so that we can produce more jobs and more prosperity. Of course, there is never any consideration (in mainstream media or politics) about the sustainability of this policy of more, more, more…it just isn’t questioned.

Heinberg’s new book is a heavy tome of large photographs that show the physical affects of this policy of endless growth on our Earth, on our natural world. And the pictures are very bleak, depressing and dark. This is our future if we continue on this path of more, more more.

We must start to act like adults rather than children who insist on more, more, more without considering the consequences.


Endless growth is a delusion with consequences…The spiral of climate change, peak energy, and economic crisis, with author Richard Heinberg. Fresh interview on giant new book “Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth”. Followed by speech to Chicago Bioneers “Life After Growth: Why the Economy Is Shrinking and What to Do About It”.

Eye-popping, jaw-dropping, – I’m out of words to describe the tsunami of agencies and experts admitting our troubles are bigger than our brains.

• Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Crisis is the only antidoteIn an interview, Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the Limits to Growth, said:

We are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change.

Most of the angst we folks who are paying attention feel regarding the future comes from not understanding this critical point.

We feel despair and disappointment when there is a difference between our expectation of the future and what we think is the likely future. I would go further and say that we have a certain future: economic contraction, starvation, regional wars over resources, etc. These are all the consequences of being several billion people into overshoot and dealing with declining oil production and climate change. Nature, via the immutable laws of physics, will eventually rebalance things.

The machine will not stop or even slow down willingly because the individuals and institutions that comprise it have strong interests in keeping it running. We would have had to teach enough people in time that infinite growth was a disaster, and we didn’t do that. As a species, we blew it.

Getting that all we can do now is take care of our little corner of the machine is when I finally experienced peace.

Give yourself the same gift and accept that we will not, as a whole, proactively address our converging crises. We will learn only as events unfold. Once you accept this, you too will feel much more free to live your life.

Source: The Automatic Earth

We are incapable of solving our home made problems and crises for a whole series of reasons. We’re not just bad at it, we can’t do it at all. We’re incapable of solving the big problems, the global ones.

We evolve the way Stephen Jay Gould described evolution: through punctuated equilibrium. That is, we pass through bottlenecks, forced upon us by the circumstances of nature, only in the case of the present global issues we are nature itself. And there’s nothing we can do about it. If we don’t manage to understand this dynamic, and very soon, those bottlenecks will become awfully narrow passages, with room for ever fewer of us to pass through.

As individuals we need to drastically reduce our dependence on the runaway big systems, banking, the grid, transport etc., that we ourselves built like so many sorcerers apprentices, because as societies we can’t fix the runaway problems with those systems, and they are certain to drag us down with them if we let them.

• Saturday, November 10th, 2012

I love the part when the Professor told the crowd of Harvard undergrads, “I don’t care about the haves – that means you. I care about the poor.” There wasn’t much applause…

Source: Harvard University Office for Sustainability

• Sunday, May 13th, 2012


It was perhaps surprising, but also encouraging, that the January 2012 TED conference finally addressed the subject of collapse, by inviting Paul Gilding to give his talk The Earth is Full. I’d actually seen a version of Gilding’s talk at the Ilhahee Lecture Series here in Portland last fall.

Gilding’s view is that we’ve reached a relationship between global population and available natural resources that makes it inevitable that the economy — a converter of natural resources into goods — will sharply slow down, if it has not started to slow down already. Gilding can be thought of not as a neo-Malthusian, or a doomer, but rather as an ecological economist. (As most readers know, I share this same view.)

Gilding looks at trailing historical growth rates — again, the rate at which natural resources are converted to industrial and population growth — and concludes that the future size of the economy at these growth rates would create a machine that the earth simply cannot sustain…

The second crucial problem is a failure to consider the limit outlined by Paul Gilding, which is that present growth rates of energy consumption, for example, imply an economy that just about everyone can agree is simply too large for the planet to handle.

You simply cannot keep growing the size of the human-created heat engine up to the level of a star. This was articulated beautifully by physicist Tom Murphy in his recent and very widely read post, Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist. When problem solvers entirely avoid the subject of limits, it is both appealing and exciting, but eventually it becomes vaguely pathological.

• Friday, March 02nd, 2012

This animated film is extremely well done and entertaining. If you have any friends who don’t understand the dangers posed by Peak oil or the paradigm of infinite growth, this film will do the trick.

If you want to help translate the film, please join the Universal Subtitles group. Or go to the Hubbert’s Arms Forum, where you can collaborate with others.

• Tuesday, November 08th, 2011

In the name of corporate profits, jobs and economic growth, products like light bulbs, automobiles, clothing and computers are designed to break. This is known as planned obsolescence.

The documentary below, The Lightbulb Conspiracy, is an interesting story about the real conspiracy between light bulb manufacturers in the 1930′s to limit the life span of bulbs to 1,000 hours. During the Depression, one Congressman even tried to make planned obsolescence the law of the United States. Well meaning, but insane.

For us to live sustainably, the things we make or buy for ourselves need to maximize their useful lifespan. This holiday season, buying quality second hand gifts at sites like is a good way to keep useful items out of landfill and in the hands of someone who will love them.

• Tuesday, November 01st, 2011

Montreal Garbage (could be compost)

The pressing reality of living on an island is that land is a finite resource and eventually we run out of space to put our garbage. Transforming some of our garbage to fuel and soil is one step toward sustainability.

If you don’t want to wait for the city to get its ducks in a row, you can start composting today.

Source: Montreal Gazette

Quebecers have a growing garbage problem. Landfill sites are filling up, and the rotting garbage in them can leach contaminants into groundwater and produce a gas composed of methane and carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Quebecers produce about 810 kg of garbage per person every year, but the province wants to get that down to 700 kg by 2015. One of the biggest components of our garbage is organic materials. An estimated 44 per cent of the garbage we produce every year could be composted. As part of the garbage diet it has planned for Quebecers, the province has banned organic waste – including food waste – from landfills by 2020…

…Green waste can also be transformed into natural gas through a process called biomethanation, but no food waste is now being transformed into biofuels in Quebec, according to Récyc-Québec…

..After two years of scouting for locations, the city has chosen four sites it thinks are suitable for building compost-treatment centres. Under the city’s plan, biogas plants would be built in Montreal East and LaSalle, and composting centres in St. Michel and Dorval. They would handle organic waste from across the island, reducing the number of trucks carrying garbage off the island to landfills.

The plan is for compost collection to be in place for all buildings on the island with eight units or less by 2014, city officials said. Yard and food waste would be collected in the same bin on the western half of the island; on the eastern end there would be separate collections of food and yard waste.

• Monday, August 01st, 2011

Robots WorkingThe trajectory of our modern economy is clear: people are redundant.

Corporations would rather buy robots to make things. They are cheaper, more efficient, more accurate in most cases and won’t unionize or commit suicide in defiance of poor working conditions.

Corporations are making enormous amounts of money not hiring people and why should they when machines will do the job faster, cheaper and better? Apple (AAPL) sits on about $76 billion of cash, Intel (INTC) about $20 billion and Microsoft (MSFT) about $40 billion. They won’t hire a single person unless they can make money from that hire. That’s just the nature of business.

This isn’t news if you’ve been paying attention. The real question then becomes: how do we feed, clothe and house people who do not serve any corporate interest outside of consuming corporate goods?

How do we sustain people who no longer are a cog in the capitalist wheel? And do not assume that you are immune from such a fate. Practically any job title besides “Owner” can be outsourced or replaced by a machine.

Source:  Xinhua

Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday.

The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers’ dance party Friday night.

The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.

• Sunday, March 06th, 2011

The Economics of EnoughSource: The New York Times

Climate change and the larger issue of environmental sustainability are another challenge, Ms. Coyle argues, in which the balance between our actions today and our responsibilities to the future is out of whack. One does not have to look far to find evidence of depleting fishing stocks, accelerated extinctions of species, water shortages and atmospheric changes to realize that we are using up natural resources at a rapid rate.

What will this depletion, which is fed by current consumption, mean for future generations? Ms. Coyle writes that we “do want more in order to be happier — but how much more is feasible without destroying the natural and social environment, and how much more is fair to the people who will come after us?”

Borrowing from the future this way shows our inability, or refusal, to assume responsibility for the impact of today’s choices on tomorrow’s prospects, Ms. Coyle says.

Three elements — measurement, values and institutions — are needed to bring about a better balance between the present and future, she writes.

In the area of measurement, she says we must adopt broader, longer-term measures of economic well-being than G.D.P. Such metrics would account for health, education, the environment, employment, purchasing power and other conditions. They might also measure the stocks of the world’s resources — from fish in the ocean to human capital — in addition to the annual flows of national income calculated in G.D.P.