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I Was Wrong – There are NO Limits to Growth!

Last night, with the lights out during Earth Hour, I had an epiphany. It hit me: “Wow, it’s pretty dark.”

So I took advantage of that darkness to step outside of the rational, logical thought processes I discovered have been limiting me. I realized the only thing that limits humankind is limited thinking.

For 6 years I researched and produced a film questioning our worship of growth everlasting. GrowthBusters was released in November and is today enjoying film festival and other screenings around the world. So you can imagine the shock of realizing I was completely wrong when I bought – hook, line and sinker – the silly notions advanced by such crackpot scientists as Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb), misguided sociologists as William Catton (Overshoot), rogue economists like Herman Daly (Ecological Economics), and the group of MIT scientists who (imagine the folly) used computer models to reach their conclusions in the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth study.

 “There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder”

– Ronald Reagan
U.S. President 1981-1989 & star of Bedtime for Bonzo

Of course there are no limits! All I had to do was look at our track record. Humankind has a history of discovery, creativity and accomplishment that clearly makes us as resilient as the cockroach. We can take credit for Thalidomide, DDT, asbestos, CFCs, and Chernobyl. We’ve clearly demonstrated our superiority over nature. We can suck so much water from the Colorado River it peters out before reaching its delta in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ogallala Aquifer is no match for our wells and pumps; we’ll soon have that sucker pumped dry. We’ve converted forests into deserts, and deserts into casinos. We can air-condition beaches and ski slopes in Dubai, and we’ve eliminated pesky species like the Red-bellied Gracile Opossum. If these feats don’t impress you with our power and mastery over nature, perhaps you’ll be impressed with our ability to light the water from our faucets (and the Cuyahoga River) on fire. And let’s not forget we came up with the riding lawn mower.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I said,

“We can’t have a sustainable world if it’s full of communities that have unsustainable goals of economic growth and population growth.”

I was suffering from what motivational speaker Zig Ziglar called “stinking thinking.” If I limit myself to logic and scientific fact, concluding there are limits to how big we can grow our population and economy, then there will be limits. But, if I imagine, as cornucopian economist Julian Simon did, that there are no limits, then we can all be fat, rich and reproduce like bunnies. We can feed, as Simon insisted, trillions of people, just by using our imagination. Simon said, “Copper and oil come out of our minds.” (Yes, it’s in my film!) We can conjure up the resources to support an economy 1 billion times the size of our current economy (we’ll get there in 700 years at 3% annual growth). All we have to do is close our eyes and click the heels of our red slippers together.

Forgive me for misleading the world with my film, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. We are hooked on growth, but everything’s going to be just fine!


By the way, I’ve been asking you to take the Pledge to Think Small. Zig Ziglar and Julian Simon have been turning over in their graves (well, Simon would be; Ziglar apparently is still living and will “See you at the top!”) Please do NOT take this pledge. Think Big! After all, bigger is better. Size matters. Quantity beats quality. Things go better with growth. Satisfaction is overrated. Want more, expect more, and go get it (even if you have to steal it)!

Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is the director of the new documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, which uncovers the cultural forces that keep us pursuing growth in the face of overwhelming evidence we’ve outgrown the planet.

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