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Donald Trump and growth chart turning down

Trump Can’t Keep It Up (Economic Growth) – Podcast Episode #17

We should NOT be celebrating (or pursuing) 4.1% economic growth, according to co-host Dave Gardner. Listen to this podcast to find out why pursuing GDP growth today is suicidal. Also on tap, listener comments about Earth Overshoot Day (the subject of our last podcast), and more single-use plastics we want to avoid. Dave stumps us with this question: What single-use disposable item do we want to see used more widely? Try to guess before Dave gives you the answer halfway into this episode.

In this episode we hear U.S. President Donald Trump brag about economic growth at a 4.1% annualized rate. Even his sharpest critics celebrate robust growth, as we hear from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe. Many economists responded to this news that they don’t think we can keep that growth rate up, but their reasons differ from Dave’s. On a finite planet, perpetual growth in economic throughput is impossible.

Here’s the spreadsheet Dave discusses in this episode:

Spreadsheet showing 4.1% annual GDP growth

Forget an economy 1 million times the size of today’s, do you think one planet Earth can support even twice today’s level of resource extraction, energy use, and waste (including carbon) emissions?

Here’s one of the GrowthBusters videos mentioned in which Dave gives away Endangered Species Condoms:

One of the Endangered Species Condoms packages courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity:

Before it gets hotter..remember the sea otter (on condoms package)

Explore the relationship between economic growth and sustainability at these websites and books:

Economics in a Full World by Herman Daly in Scientific American

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Limits to Growth (1972 MIT Study)


Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan to Stop Them All

Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution

Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources


Sustainability News+Views (newsletter we recommend)

Laura Carroll (we mentioned her tweet and book)

GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth (documentary Dave recommended – and directed!)

The Single-Use Plastics You Never Thought About and 13 Simple Swaps
By Heidi Bischof on Medium

Collapsible Straws:

A collapsible straw to attach to keychain

Final Straw (subscribe and order links don’t seem to be working; we’ve reached out to see what’s going on here)

Another collapsible straw

Endangered Species Condoms (Center for Biological Diversity)

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Comments (5)

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    Great show! and I enjoyed the question. At least using condoms doesn’t spread hormones through our sewage and waterways.


  • Avatar

    Hugh Martin


    4.1% annualized economic growth? Is this even believeable? The government lies about everything as standard operating procedure. The Consumer Price Index is bogus, and unemployment figures are bogus, so why should we put any credence in the government’s economic figures? It is now perfectly legal (since 2013) for the government to propagandize the public. If economic growth is actually falling, especially in terms of real assets that historically resist inflation, would the government admit it? No way. They would lie with bogus statistics, like they just did.


  • Avatar

    John McVicker


    We recently had a talk locally telling us about recycling details.
    Recycling now is under pressure and it’s why the Lakewood aspect in the podcast is showing “optional”. Some cities on the west coast are facing gluts of stagnant recycling materials due to the China-situation of wanting only high-quality recycling and having cut back to extreme measures the recycling acceptance from the American suppliers. Our USA recycling goes westward on empty container ships to China.


  • Avatar

    John McVicker


    The economy is not priced on “units of stuff”.
    Growth in economy is based on dollars transacted. “Trade”.
    Inflation causes the GDP growth to look bigger than it really is. If inflation is up 2% and GDP is up 3% then generally, growth is 1% (in simple terms). So, the true resource-use economy (ie. what CASSE tracks) is a multiple of population itself. However, more middle-class means more travel, secondary homes, hobbies, concerts/sports attendance, conspicuous consumption. Economy wants all our income spent before we save in order to keep GDP “flowing”. Economists talk of “velocity of money” as a basis of economic measure. GDP-Growth is different than you presented due to these things.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      I think our comments are totally on point if we’re talking about “real” GDP vs “nominal.”


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