The end of economic growth?

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Damnthematrix's picture
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Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
The end of economic growth?


6:24 AM, 13 Mar 2009
Paul Gilding

The end of economic growth?

Any doubt that now is the time for the real debate
about the economic crisis – that is, about whether there is something
much deeper going on – evaporated for me this week. I discovered there
is a fast and furious discussion happening around the world that will
now rapidly shift into the mainstream. So get ready for it and get
ready for its consequences.

In July 2008, I sent a letter to around 1,000 of my
contacts across the world. It built on a similar though less immediate
forecast I had made in a 2005 letter. In this new one, I argued we were
entering a global crisis with a simultaneous and connected, economic
and ecological crash – what I called
The Great Disruption.

It had a very strong response at the time and
circulated widely, but then it went very quiet – until this week. Last
Sunday, New York Time’s columnist and author Tom Friedman wrote a
The Inflection is Near where he raised the question no one really wants to hear.

He asked “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 is widely read globally and within minutes
of publication, my normally manageable inbox and website went crazy. He
had quoted me in the article as being the person who had long been
forecasting this moment to him and described my Great Disruption as the
moment “when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at

His column clearly struck a chord. I’ve since done
media interviews on the topic in 4 countries, received numerous offers
to write books, do speaking tours etc and last night did a one hour
national radio special on
NPR in the USA.

Why should all this be interesting to you? Because
it's time we had this debate more broadly. The responses I’ve had from
the US to India, from NZ to China all say to me this issue now needs to
be flushed into the open urgently because, as I argued yesterday in a
piece on
Crikey, “If we don't understand the problem, then we won’t choose the right solution.”

The public response internationally has been
fascinating and provides a good indication of the debate ahead. There
are plenty who dismiss this idea, that we have a broader system
problem, as a lack of understanding of the brilliance of the market.
They believe we’ll soon bounce back and “resume normal programming”
i.e. growth, growth, growth.

Others, particularly in the US and for some reason
India, have gone deeper in their comments and sense the fundamental
design problem that I see. They argue, as Tom Friedman does, “We can’t
do this anymore.”

In the nearly 500 comments that were logged on the
NYT website before they stopped accepting them, are many great insights
into the variety and depth of the issues people are considering. One
reader argued in what was the “most recommended” post – “We've killed
the goose; demand was unsustainable, propped up by enormous debt, and
it's not coming back.”

So what do you think?
- Are our political leaders right with their “shop till we bounce” solution?
- Is delaying action climate change bad for the economy, as I argued in my last blog, or in fact the best a way to protect it?
- Is there actually more economic opportunity in
building a new ecologically “net zero” economy than in rebuilding the
old model?

- Who has it right in the proportion of stimulus
packages being focused on green economic growth? Korea at 65 per cent
China at 30 per cent or Australia at 10 per cent?)

- Will the market sort this all out by itself or is there a need for strong government intervention to kick start green growth?
- And the biggest question of all – is the whole
idea that our quality of life keeps improving with more wealth and more
stuff, even after our basic needs have been met, actually, as was
argued to me by an NPR listener at 1am this morning, really “The Great

I look forward to your inputs into what will be a critical global debate.

Paul Gilding writes Business Spectator's climate change blog. To read and or submit a comment click here.

SagerXX's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Posts: 2268
Re: The end of economic growth?

A thought I've been having (related to DTM's post from Paul Gilding) is that we're soon going to have a lot of company (on this website / on this conceptual ground) as more & more people are getting a clue about the 3E (though they may not call them by that name).  

Mornin' to everybody from the Hudson Valley -- Sager 

Arthur Vibert's picture
Arthur Vibert
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 16 2008
Posts: 116
Re: The end of economic growth?

Friedman is influential, whcih is remarkable for a man who is so often wrong on major issues. Just the same I think he has this one right, though his solutions are essentially a cornucopian "we'll fix it all with technology" approach that I think is hopelessly flawed.

Still, it is telling that these concepts are reaching the mainstream. I think Sager is right - we need to get ready for a lot more company here. 

An interesting commentary on Friedman's column can be read here: 


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