Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Economic Growth Is Over and Done With

What do we make of the public spectacle of our politicians and the debt ceiling, the dropping of the U.S. credit rating, the wobbly market, riots in London, starvation in Africa, and on and on? Business as usual? A blip in an otherwise steady climb to economic prosperity? Or something else?

We could find fault. We could blame the Tea Party, or Obama, or your mama, but it's bigger than that.

Among my links on the sidebar is one to the latest book by Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.

Heinberg is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and has written a number of important books regarding energy, including The Party's Over, Powerdown, Peak Everything, and Blackout.

In his latest book he tackles our economic practices and assumptions as well as all the magical thinking that is conjured up by politicians, economists, technophiles and others to assure us that all is well and our economy will grow again, onward and upward forever and ever.

Heinberg is blunt:

The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.

The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it.

The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both forseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades--a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers. pp. 1-2
Well-written, well-researched and sobering, The End of Growth is fascinating study of history, economics, and resource limits. The ultimate questions are spiritual ones:
  • For what are we living?
  • What do we value?
  • How might we define progress and the good life beyond economic growth?
This five minute video offers a quick explanation of Heinberg's thesis:

Here is an interview with Heinberg about the book itself.

You also will want to catch this interview by Chris Martenson with Nate Hagens, editor of The Oil Drum, We're Not Facing a Shortage of Energy But a Longage of Expectations:

We’re not really facing a shortage of energy; we’re facing a longage of expectations. And the sooner that we as individuals or a nation recognize that the future is going to see much lower consumption than today and prepare for that, psychological resilience is going to be really important, because if no one is psychologically prepared, people are going to freak out when some of these freedoms start to go away.
And, of course, the ever-colorful James Kunstler gives us the bottom line with his latest rant:
The exact sequence of failures is unpredictable. But you can be sure Nature is telling you to get local, get smaller, get finer, downscale, solidify your friendships, and drop your stupid grandiose fantasies about running WalMart on algae. This is change you don't have to believe in, because it is about to jump up and bite you on the lips.
My little mission at Shuck and Jive--to point out the modern day prophets who are telling us to prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually for big changes in our future.


  1. Hee hee.
    Ha ha.
    Bwa ha ha ha...

    Oh well, more alarmism. Isn't it great! Gotta go get my "The World is Ending" sign and parade around for a while.

  2. The world isn't ending. It's simply changing. And the chumps who are in denial now will probably be the ones to lash out most violently when those changes take place. And, it is my hope, that when they do, it will be against other such chumps, so those of us who understand what is happening can go about adapting to the changed world without having to worry about a bunch of chumps.

    By the way, "chump" is a delightfully apt word.