Friday, November 27, 2009

What's growth got to do with it?

I had an interesting exchange with Grist's David Roberts on twitter tonight.   It began when @drgrist came through with this tweet.
Dear Beltway journalists: economic slowdown, not increased spending, causing current deficit. Solution not less spending, but more growth.
I could not pass up the opportunity to question this chase after growth, and so I responded using the Green Party CA id, GPCA.…
@drgrist Isnt' the need for growth at all costs part of the problem? Energy? Population? Water? Food?
Roberts was attentive enough to reply.
@GPCA We need to decouple growth from resource consumption in long-term. Short-term, we need to save O's political bacon...or Pres Palin.
And there you have the Democratic Party platform if the race were being run now… and in many ways it is. Anybody but Palin.

This still sidesteps the basic question of when, if ever, will it be proper to talk about this decoupling of growth from resouce consumption. I listened to a piece on NPR about climate change and the tragedy of the commons this AM. That is what seems to be playing out here. We all know what is good for everyone. But our fears keep us from doing it, whether it is Roberts's fear of a President Palin, the Obama - Summers - Geitner group fear of an economy without growth to pay off our debts, or the Republican's fear that someone else will have the economic magic for the 21st Century.

So we muddle along. Politicians preen in public but compromise, shave the results, are satisfied with mincing little steps in the right direction because "that is what we can do this term."

Well, I am not satisfied and neither should you be. If politicians are not going to deliver a sustainable future, if they are only using that word "sustainable" to make us believe, then maybe we need to go watch The Road to get a reminder what what can happen. I have not seen that movie. I did read the book. The review in the Washington Post seems to remind us of just why Washington seems not to understand.

If leaders will not lead, then we need to elect new leaders. If some corporation would sell us the koolaid, then it is time to just stop buying. If growth would bring the end, then start planning for a steady state economy. It is no longer up to them. It is up to us.

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