Note — Sep 29, 2019

Growth Must End. Economist Don’t Seem to Realise That

Seen in → No.96

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Interview with Vaclav Smil about his new book on growth. Bill Gates is always super enthused with Smil’s books, I wonder how he’ll take this one, considering the main point is “that growth must come to an end.” Nothing super new in there, interesting because of who listens to him, for some of the ways he frames things and for his emphasis on not talking in global terms but in needs and solutions varying by country. Also, mentioned in one of the questions, which I quite like: “anthropogenic insults to ecosystems.”

But I wanted to put it all together under one roof so people could see how these things are inevitably connected and how it all shares one crystal clarity: that growth must come to an end. […]

The economists will tell you we can decouple growth from material consumption, but that is total nonsense. The options are quite clear from the historical evidence. If you don’t manage decline, then you succumb to it and you are gone. The best hope is that you find some way to manage it. […]

We could halve our energy and material consumption and this would put us back around the level of the 1960s. We could cut down without losing anything important. … Not much is going to happen to their lives. People don’t realise how much slack in the system we have. […]

This is what kind of species we are: we are stupid, we are negligent, we are tardy. But on the other hand, we are adaptable, we are smart and even as things are falling apart, we are trying to stitch them together. But the most difficult thing is to calculate the net effect. Are we up or down? For all the analysis, we don’t know this. […]