Forget peak oil, we may have reached ‘peak GDP’

Economic growth and population growth, these are undoubtedly the questions of our time. These questions are highlighted by most of today’s major news events: climate disruption, economic meltdown, hunger, poverty, species extinction and economic inequity. We have all heard of peak oil, but we will find out in this century whether we are living in the era of peak everything: peak food, peak water, peak biodiversity, peak energy, peak population and even peak gross domestic product. Several of these scenarios are potentially cataclysmic and we face them precisely because we have been embracing values and pursuing policies that are inherently unsustainable.

Behind these values and policies is a nearly universal belief in the benefits and essentiality of growth. Increasing the scale of humanity – population and economic throughput – has long been considered both good and inevitable. As a civilization, we have avoided examining whether such expansion continues to benefit us and whether it is even feasible going forward.

It seems quite logical to think that humanity cannot increase our population and economy forever if we are limited to planet earth as our life-support system. Economist Kenneth Boulding described it rather articulately in 1966 when he wrote of the “spaceman” economy. We can no more expect the earth to support 12 billion people – or 7 billion living like millionaires – than we could expect one of today’s spacecraft to provide bunks, food, oxygen and water for 500 crewmembers. If we can understand this at the small scale of a spaceship, why is it that we cannot comprehend it on a global level?

via Forget peak oil, we may have reached ‘peak GDP’ – Public Service Europe.

Categories: Energy, Transportation