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What if Growth Isn’t Possible? See the cartoon!

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist
– Kenneth Boulding

This week, world leaders, politicians, pundits and a solid majority of the population continue a global vigil – praying the world’s economies will return to robust growth. We hold our breath with the release of each new economic indicator – job creation, consumer confidence, retail sales, new home starts.

this week, if you find yourself cheering a return to growth, you may be inadvertently celebrating our acceleration toward an ecological cliff edge
– Andrew Simms, Policy Director and Head of Climate Change and Energy New Economics Foundation . . .

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Hooked on a system that no longer serves

The economic crisis continues to dominate the news and is a common topic in holiday party chatter. CNN calls it “Issue #1.” As a documenter of growth mania, I find this crisis an irresistible and fascinating opportunity.

Step back as I do, and take a detached, thoughtful look at our behavior. Ponder the following questions, and then ask a few of these while chatting with friends at your next holiday party. Let me know the reactions.


If we were designing a global system to meet our basic needs and provide opportunities for happiness and fulfillment, would we choose a model that only works if we need/want/make/sell/buy more automobiles this year than last, a system that falls apart if our needs have been met? . . .

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Troubled Waters

gardnerborderfencecropped221x1461 “Do you have…protection?” The U.S. Border Patrol officer patted his holster as he asked. “No, do I need to? I replied. He suggested to his supervisor perhaps one of them should escort me. This section of the U.S.-Mexico border has been one of the most dangerous.

That’s a 16-foot border fence behind me in the photo. The escort idea was nixed due to lack of manpower, so I bid the officers adieu and struck out for the main channel of the Colorado River, lugging tripod and video camera across 1/3-mile of delta. In places I sank so deep in the silt that it poured into my boots.

As expected there was not a drop of water in the river. It had all been diverted to Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and the Imperial Valley. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently calculated a 50 percent chance lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013. Yet growth addicts in our metropolitan areas are busy plotting to make sure they get every drop of water they have a legal right to, water that is unlikely to be there. . . .

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Economic System Broke(n)

While the pain we all feel in the current economic meltdown is very real, the system we’re attempting to revive was broken long before the latest bubble and recession. Our economy has come to depend on perpetual growth. Whether that growth is real (as in increasing throughput and the inherent liquidation of finite resources) or just on paper (speculators speculating about what other speculators will do), it cannot be sustained.

The problems with our current system extend far beyond its sheer unsustainability. It long ago stopped providing us the prosperity or happiness we seek. Our communities have been crumbling under the costs and impacts of growth, and rising GDP is no longer an indicator of increasing quality of life. . . .

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Progress on the film


Phoenix, San Francisco, Dallas and Kansas City were in my viewfinder over the past six months as we passed a milestone: over 75% of Hooked on Growth has been shot. From volunteers crewing our shoots to authorities I’m interviewing about population, urban growth or the psychology of climate change denial, everyone I meet is cheering us on. I wish I had room here to share these stories. You’ll just have to see the film!

This film’s message is needed now, more than ever. I need your help to make that happen. I’ve got to shoot in Los Angeles next month, and I still must hit the East Coast for some important interviews. I’m very frugal on these trips, but they still rapidly deplete our resources. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to help fund these production trips and the editing ahead. . . .

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