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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fear of fallowing: The specter of a no-growth world—By Steven Stoll (Harper's Magazine)

From the March 2008 Harper's Magazine issue. Steven Stoll is Senior Fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis. His book The Great Delusion: A Mad Inventor, Death in the Tropics, and the Utopian Origins of Economic Growth was published this year by Hill and Wang.

Fear of fallowing: The specter of a no-growth world—By Steven Stoll (Harper's Magazine): "The earliest advocates of economic growth celebrated it as a physics of society, in which amplified production resulted in more robust consumption, causing an outward shift in wealth, investment, employment, and production—a positive feedback loop promising that most fundamental of human desires: a more durable existence. Political economists spoke an almost mystical language, claiming, in the words of Francis Amasa Walker in 1892, that “there never comes a time when more laborers will not produce larger harvests. There never comes a time when additional capital introduced into agriculture cannot secure for itself some return. Such is the condition under which the earth is cultivated by human labor, for the supply of human wants.” That wishful thought served as the blueprint of modernity, and no shortage or other crisis succeeded in rending it. For the past 250 years, the industrialized world has expanded and thrived on an escalating volume of material transferred from environments into commerce, manu- facturing, construction, and agriculture. The raw stuff of the planet made growth possible, and growth, in turn, reshaped the way people thought about themselves, their communities, and the human condition itself."

  • Are we approaching limits of growth?
  • How long can we amplify production?
  • Where are the limits of consumption?
  • We see the limits of global financial system (about to crash!)
  • Are we approaching the limits of profitable ROI for present goods and services (at least in the affluent countries)
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