The religion of ‘economic growth’ – where is it leading us?

‘sustained economic recovery’? Not by any sane assessment. Printing money is illegal at home for good reason. The same ought to be true of QE, as it has a worse effect, even just considering its scale, but also as the ‘trickle down’ effect that the policy is predicated on (in theory, restarting banks lending to SME’s) is clearly not real (, and worsens inequality ( And never mind that we’re all indebted up to our eyeballs, and the SME’s and general public have no appetite for further indebtedness…

Public confidence is an illusion, as is control, and will evaporate sooner or later, as the ability to direct and manage the financial crisis with ‘more of the same’ thinking is shown to be unsustainable. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I wouldn’t wish the obvious challenges of the next term of government on my worst enemy. The sooner we accept growth is dead, and there is a fundamental shift under way, the better for everything and everyone. It’ll become obvious in the next few years to even the dullest of career politicians, lets just hope it galvanises them into asking the right fundamental questions. I feel these are:

Q1 – Why do we need growth? A: To service interest payments on money lent into existence as debt.

Q2 – Why is the economy moribund? A: Because we’ve hit diminishing returns on capital and energy in many spheres, as the expansion in economic activity and natural resource throughput of the last couple of centuries bumps up against planetary boundaries.

Q3 – What is a realistic view of the future? A: De-growth of economic activity, energy consumtion, natural resource exploitation rates, population, until we get back inside the sustainable capacity of the planet. and


It’s the basic maths of (exponential) growth, and people shouldn’t be allowed to govern nations until they’ve externalised this basic and fundamental concept: or review the talk given by Professor Albert Bartlett here:

Not convinced? Further resources worth a look:

  • Limits to Growth–At our doorstep, but not recognized: – I’d actually recommend all Gail Tverberg’s writing at her blog ‘Our Finite World’
  • The Next Global Meltdown Is Baked In: Connecting the Dots Between Oil, Debt, Interest Rates and Risk:



So what about positive alternatives, Nathan..?

The lower net energy future that we’re looking at makes certain activities more or less worthwhile, notwithstanding the probable disruption coming due to shortages in fundamental needs, primarily food ( and water (

Do I think all growth in economic output is bad? No. Southland as a region has to grow in some respects, as we will have to provide more for ourselves going forward, if we want to sustain a human presence in the province. This will be a result of ever more expensive transportation costs. In a practical sense, the seas will again expand (, but also the effort for the trip to Dunedin, or even Invercargill… As we look to a more local future, we’ll recognise more the inter-dependence with our closer neighbours, and we’ll have to reconfigure food and water supplies, finance, business, politics to suit this new reality. It’s why I’m interested in the Transition Towns movement:, and Transition Engineering: and why I support the Wise Response appeal:, submitted to parliament, which posits that:

A risk assessment is the first step in determining the nature, urgency and interrelationship between potential threats to New Zealand’s future economic social and environmental security. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 report is an example of such an assessment. A report for New Zealand would provide a firm basis from which to engage the public and businesses in identifying practical ways to respond.

This petition therefore calls on Parliament as a whole to see funds allocated for an assessment of NZ’s critical risks in 5 key areas:
1. Economic / Financial Security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis.
2. Energy and Climate Security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels.
3. Business Continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy.
4. Ecological / Environmental Security: the risks in failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes.
5. Genuine Well-Being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based inequitable economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP.

I made a recent submission to the Venture Southland draft business plan 2014 (, outlining what I feel are some alternatives to the directions the region is currently looking:


Page 7
Relating to: statement that “significant growth opportunities” exist.
● Given: Vision and Mission Statement
● Given: increased environmental impacts from ‘growth’ at odds with the Vision and Mission statement
● Question: Does VS believe that ‘growth’ in the commonly accepted ‘GDP increase’ from increased levels of economic activity (which automatically creates increased throughput of natural capital and therefore increasing environmental impacts) is actually desirable?

Pages 16-20
Relating to: “Major Initiative: International Marketing Alliances”
● Missing category of potential migrants is people looking to relocate to an area with the following characteristics:
○ Non­nuclear (serious question marks exist over decommissioning of commercial nuclear power plants in a high price oil future ­ e.g. no long term waste storage facilities currently fully commissioned, anywhere in the world).
○ Low population density and high food production capacity.
○ Projected to be less affected (low lying coastal areas excluded) by global warming than most other parts of the world.
○ Abundant fresh water resources ­ huge catchment area above the plains, and natural storage in the lakes.
● Market to them on the basis of the above advantages. The people who are aware of these factors and have a desire to relocate are likely to be of a desirable demographic (affluent, educated, motivated to help with transition to a lower carbon, more strongly sustainable economy).
○ Idea: why not create a strategic plan for encouraging new sustainable communities with similar characteristics to

Pages 21­-23
Relating to: “Major Initiative: Rural Community Engagement”
● Community owned distributed power capacity ­ wood gasification, with short rotation coppice, biogas, etc. Leverage global open source initiatives such as ­ can be locally manufactured ­ job creation… Would also provide an alternative and probably cost effective alternative to the existing renewables proposals. There will be significant manufacturing capacity available when the smelter winds down.
● Further reading: ‘Power from the People’ -­ I have a copy for loan.
● Link this to the marketing to the demographic mentioned in my previous comment. Why can’t Southland Market itself of the basis of the highest number / density of off grid settlements in the world? It’d save on all the grid infrastructure maintenance that must be a significant proportion of the standing charges rural communities pay. Do the maths on whether this makes sense.

Pages 24-­26
Relating to: “Major Initiative: Events Promotion and Development”
● Given Southland’s geographic location and rising energy / transportation costs, this should be viewed from the perspective of community building around ‘worthwhile’ activities based on what will be affordable from an energy / travel perspective in the longer term ­ in this light, the ‘crank it up’ day is probably the most worthwhile event in Southland…

Pages 27-­29
Relating to: “Major Initiative: Land­use opportunities”
● I’m a founder of Love Local ­ a charitable trust, set up to provide locally sourced fruit and vegetables from the
○ Opportunity: create a food hub or hubs for Southland on a ‘not for profit’ (or ‘for benefit’ as it’s more appropriately termed) basis, to provide a direct grower to market pipeline that can bring small / medium size local producers into the market.
○ Opportunity: Use the blueprint designs from the likes of Open Source Ecology as the basis for a local manufacturing industry geared to supplying the needs of these small scale farmers. Many other tools for low carbon agriculture exist which could be locally fabricated. There will be significant manufacturing capacity available when the smelter winds down.
○ Further reading: the blog posts I’m writing on behalf of Love Local for the website. To date:,, with more in draft.
● Why not look into Bamboo and Hemp as well, both have huge potential for the local economy and a large, existing export market for products that local industries could adapt to service: sawmills for bamboo, bamboo and hemp as a biomass coppice source for biomass energy projects (higher biomass production per acre by far than forestry, and a lot faster to realise a return).

Sorry if these comments are a bit rushed / terse. I didn’t realise this was out for comment in time to put more effort into it. I hope the above is helpful!

Sincerely, Nathan

I’m speaking to my submission on the 14th. It’s a public meeting. Want to have some discussion on this..? Call me or come along: 03 221 7487 – the meeting is at the Venture Southland offices at 143 Spey Street in Invercargill, and submission hearings start from 1pm for an hour and a half.





Filed under How, What, When, Where, Who, Why

2 responses to “The religion of ‘economic growth’ – where is it leading us?

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