The end of growth

In response to Barry Beaupre’s request to The Chronicle-Journal to make climate change a priority you indicated that you had published some 299 articles on the subject over the last year (A Knowledge of Climate — letter, July 10). I have noticed, and I applaud your efforts. However, I believe that we are still missing the point — which is that we have an underlying errant belief in the myth of economic growth. And that belief is linked powerfully to our inability to stop or even mitigate climate change.

In The Chronicle-Journal editorial of July 11, entitled The Trains Among Us, you focused on the dangers posed by the exponential use of trains to haul oil, and concluded with a call for “more effective regulatory vigilance.” Yet the underlying and unquestioning economic assumption remained that oil (it would seem all of it) “has to reach markets.” After those 299 articles it leaves me to wonder when the 100th monkey will look at the same big picture and finally come to a different conclusion.

When is there a limit to economic growth? When do we finally agree that environmental, health and other related costs should be factored into the GNP? When is an economic risk not worth taking? How do our human values mesh with economic objectives?

In mid-February the magazine, Investment Executive, published an article questioning the premise of economic growth based on the escalating costs of producing energy such as bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. This was posed against the background of a hugely indebted global economy which hasn’t learned much from the market crash of 2008.

The article was based on the report Perfect Storm: Energy, Finance and the End of Growth which argues that our 250-year run of economic growth has only 10 years left before its ultimate collapse.

Considering that this report is written by Tullett Prebon Group Ltd., an investment broker, it gives me some hope that even those most focused on money have begun to question the religion of economic growth. The article does not even mention the costs of pollution and clean-up, health costs, rising insurance rates, or the horrific destruction of exploding oil tanker cars in city centres.

If investment advisers are now pondering the end of economic growth, maybe all of us monkeys should do the same — together, and in a rising chorus.

Peter Lang

Published in The Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay, July 17, 2013