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Finance

Extreme capitalism. Consumption supreme. Is it over?

I am starting to see some awareness among the chattering classes that continued population growth, endless economic growth and unhampered resource consumption may not go on forever. We have have just lived through three decades when it is considered less than acceptable for any major corporationto grow at only a few percentage points per year.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

I am starting to see some awareness among the chattering classes that continued population growth, endless economic growth and unhampered resource consumption may not go on forever. We have have just lived through three decades when it is considered less than acceptable for any major corporationto grow at only a few percentage points per year. And European nations worried that they had stable populations, not expanding work forces.

Just today a Putlitzer Prize winning writer has had the unmitigated gall to question whether constant economic growth is really possible, and then he throws in the issue of constant consumption of finite resources. Malthus would be proud. The deep underlying issue in the current economic mess and our global warming problems: human population growth.POPULATION BOMB bombed because of some major advances in modern agriculture, getting more turnips out of stone. But just because we avoided famines as great as predicted doesn't mean we have salvaged our future. The planet is awash in pollution. It is not nice to fool around with Mother Nature.

Some quotes from the Friedman screed: "What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: 'No more'.”

Friedman then goes on to quote a number of growth naysayers. Modern Jeremiahs warning us of our extreme economic sins. We ignore them at the earth's peril and that of the next generations. Where would America be today if we had used only half as much of our domestic oil over the past sixty years? By driving cars that were twice as fuel efficient? If now dead oil fields had been pumped dry at a slower rate? If we conserved BEFORE a crisis, not after?

In the greentech world the focus has been largely on energy. That makes both economic and political sense. Since man began using fire, energy's been a primary resource of human society. In the future our food, Internet, travel, water, cities and homes will all be greatly altered by whatever energy systems we have. If suburbs are to survive we will need cheap and clean renewable energy. If the family car is to continue to be wdiespread we'll need to evolve our energy system. Friedman says he's optmistic we will make the needed changes. But the arguments and forces in favor of status quo will be strong and unforgiving. Progress is never guaranteed. History is littered with failed economies and empires.

A good summary of the problems comes from a fellow blogger, Joe Romm:“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior. But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

You mean real wealth is not a portofolio of stock options and a fat bonus? Not a condo in Florida and an air conditioned RV? Not a golf course in Phoenix and a ski lodge in Aspen? [poll id="101"]

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