Humanity is already using 30% more resources than the Earth can renew. That is, we are depleting our life support systems. If everyone on earth lived like Victorians, we'd need four planets.
So what is going to happen? When?
The Club of Rome 'Limits to Growth' report answered these questions back in 1972. There are limits to growth, including water and soils, non-renewable resources and pollution. They said then if we didn't change how we do things, environmental pressures would become evident about now and predicted a mid-century collapse. The CSIRO reviewed the work in 2008 and found we are tracking the 'business as usual' trajectory.
Our Incompatible Financial System
Our financial system is locked into economic growth. Money is loaned into existence. The economy must grow to pay back debt plus interest. Ultimately the laws of physics (limits to growth) will trump human institutions (our financial and economic systems).
I think the era of economic growth is ending and I think it unwise to assume otherwise, particularly if its an unstated and perhaps unexamined assumption. So what to do?
A New Economy
An emerging focus of Transition Initiatives around the world is a new economy. The REconomy Project (www.reconomyproject.org) “looks at how it’s possible to organise our economies in different, more resilient and sustainable ways... (taking) us into new territory, for example, thinking about new methods of cycling resources, new forms of exchange, and new business models, which weave together to form a new kind of local economy.” Indeed, there's a sense of optimism of relocalising as a source of economic development.
It is better to plan for economic descent (as opposed to growth) than to be taken by surprise. But it doesn't have to be a bad thing. If we plan and act early enough, and use our creativity and cooperation to unleash the genius within our local communities, we can build a future far more fulfilling and enriching, more connected to and more gentle on the Earth, than the life we have today.
Written by Kate Leslie