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No Spin Zone: GrowthBusters Needs YOU

In my 30 years creating films for big corporations, the rules of spin were drilled into me. Dwell on the positive aspects of a product. Don’t bring up the complaints or flaws. Make it sound like the company or product is a big winner and everyone is turning to it. Like sheep, customers will follow.

In observing the growth addiction of our culture and communicating about it, I’ve had to jettison those rules. But they don’t die easily. In founding and running this fledgling non-profit, my training has told me to put on a happy face: make it sound like millions are joining the cause and supporting our work. Don’t tell readers that the organization hangs on by a thread. My instincts, on the other hand, tell me to be truthful and authentic. I try, but I often fail. It still comes naturally to me to write with that corporate voice.

I’m compelled today to make a great leap and really be honest about the support GrowthBusters is receiving. It’s inadequate.

The Spin: Miraculously, I did manage to get our first documentary made, into film festivals, and self-distributed around the world. I’ve managed, with the help of some incredible supporters, to keep the doors open for 7 years.

No-Spin: But to do that, I’ve gone without pay for all but one of those 7 years. I’ve burned through the equity in my house, twice, to cover my living expenses. I hired Lynsey even though that meant I had to continue working for no pay. I had to quit making business films early on. Even though that supported me while I was making GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, it really slowed down our progress. For the past 5 years I’ve worked full-time on GrowthBusting, often 50, 60 or even 70-hour weeks.

I have no intention of stopping. This is not one of those “we’re closing our doors” posts. But I do have to figure out a way to put some food on the table while I devote my full time to this important work. The grants and donations so far have simply not been enough. [You Can Donate Here]

IMG_7687r-50percent-300x200 We sent out a pretty amazing, heartfelt letter from our new board chair two days ago. I thought it might actually open the funding faucet beyond a trickle. I sincerely thank the few of you who responded with a donation. That means a lot. Our email list isn’t huge (it’s growing, the spin doctor in me wants you to know); it’s about 3,000. I expect those 3,000 understand the predicament facing our society and the importance of moving beyond economic and population growth. Yet, in the two days since that letter went out, we’ve received 4 donations, ranging from $5 to $100. This entire year about 130 people have contributed (that includes all the Indiegogo campaign contributors).

Now, if I were a rich Hollywood filmmaker who decided to take this on as a hobby, that might be enough. But that’s not the case. And what we do here at GrowthBusters takes money. This year we’ve spent close to $1,000 issuing news releases, $5,000 lining up radio interviews, and over $1,000 acquiring rights to use stock footage, stock photos, and stock music for our public education campaigns. In the past two years we’ve invested about $5,000 in equipment, software and gear repair. The headphones I wear to monitor audio when I’m filming are held together with duct tape (actually gaffer’s tape, but you get the idea). And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Today I’m being authentic, because it’s time to try something new. And this is probably a good step forward for me. I’ve been wondering, why don’t more people support what we’re doing? All we need is 200 people donating $1,000 per year. Or 2,000 people donating $100. I know there are thousands who want to see the world wake up and stop pursuing continued expansion on a finite planet. Thousands who want to leave their children a world worth inheriting.

I can only guess, but I do know a bit about crowd behavior. One way it manifests itself is called “diffusion of responsibility.” We see something that needs to be done, but we assume someone else is doing it. We can let it slide this time; others are stepping up. That’s where the spin doesn’t work too well. Perhaps each of you is assuming that hundreds or thousands of others are funding our work. As a result, almost no one is. I’m letting you know now that too few are stepping up. [You Can Donate Here]

Or perhaps you assume the first film is complete, and that was what this project is all about. Our work is done. The truth is there will be another film, and another, if we can find a way to raise the funds. And in the meantime we have been doing much more than just coasting and celebrating the completion of Hooked on Growth:

This year…

  • I did 39 radio and TV interviews, introducing the concept of limits to growth and the benefits of redefining the good life to thousands who hadn’t thought about it.
  • We began development of the new Conversation Earth TV series.
  • We published 51 YouTube videos, offering you bits of inspiration to share with friends and family, to begin getting growth addicts into a recovery program. These videos included:
  • We started work on a new book, featuring the best writing we can find about limits to growth, the end of growth, and how to embrace it and use it to free ourselves from the treadmill of drudgery.
  • We screened GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth for free on the Internet on Black Friday – again, offering a wake-up call to countless families around the world, perhaps starting a new holiday tradition.
  • We launched the new web initiative, Growth Bias Busted, which is already showing signs of progress in encouraging more accurate reporting and commentary about growth issues.

That’s a pretty amazing list of accomplishments for this scrappy little non-profit, with two staff-members, neither of whom is being paid fairly for their work. Now, maybe we’re doing something wrong. Maybe we haven’t earned your support. If that’s the case, please call me (+1-719-576-5565) or write to me and let me know where we’re missing the mark. We do a lot of self-examination and fine-tuning in an effort to make our work as effective as possible (of course, our goal – to get the world into a recovery program from growth addiction – is the toughest goal possible).

I’m willing to keep working for little pay, because this work is so vital. But I do have to cover expenses. And so does GrowthBusters. As the year comes to a close I have to pay the amazing attorney who helped us navigate all the copyright and fair-use issues of releasing a documentary chock-full of newspaper headlines and news broadcast examples of growth mania. She was very kind to defer payment for so long, and to be very generous with her time. We need to invest thousands in a very significant upgrade to the GrowthBusters website, and we face significant start-up expenses for the amazing Conversation Earth project.

This can’t happen with 130 donors. With 500 donors, it can. How hard is that? I guess we’re going to find out.

Feel free to mention this worthy cause to Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, or Jeffrey Skoll, if you know them. But in the meantime, we need you, and we’d love to include you in our family of supporters.

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, assuming everyone else is pitching in, please jump in with us. You’d be amazed at the power of a few hundred $100 donations. Your contribution qualifies for charitable tax deduction status in the U.S.

Dave Gardner directed the documentary GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. You can order or view the film online here. Support the project with your donation here.

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  • Avatar

    Bromwell Ault


    I write a quarterly letter of comment and often warn of the same issues you do. My subscription list is small and shrinking as mass media grows and subscribers die off., I understand your $$$ situation all too well and wish * could send a large check, but not possible. I’ll try to send something in the coming year. With best wishes,


  • Avatar

    Dave Gardner


    Thanks for the moral support at present, Bromwell. We are just ahead of our time, I guess!


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    Just watched GrowthBusters movie and soaked up all the good information you present. I especially liked all the many experts you interviewed–really shows how far reaching these issues are and have been. I’m looking forward to the sequel.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      Jeanette, thanks for watching the film and for piping up here. I hope you’ll encourage your friends to see the film and that you will all support the project – so there can be a sequel!


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