“The world is too much with us, late and soon. Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we see in nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away…” Wordsworth
If the Earth was a conscious being capable of feeling pain and loss, Black Friday would be the one day of the year it would dread the most. And the “holiday season” that stretches from November (increasingly starting the day after Halloween) through January 1 of the following year would be a dreaded time of general dysfunction and malaise that would every year leave the patient increasingly diminished, disordered and dis-eased.
If there is a poster child for the “old economy”, it is this one period of intentional over-spending, over-eating and general commercial gluttony. There was Black Friday. Now, there’s Black Thursday. What a waste to have people in their homes content with what they have when they could be scrumming behind the gated doors of Target before first light to buy STUFF! America, get STUFFING! After all, it’s ThanksGetting! Then GIFTmas!
Pope Francis is spot-on.
“Throughout the world, the G20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. In addition, there are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.”
We are chewing up order and spitting out chaos from the planet’s energy stores, topsoil, rare earths, marine fisheries, temperate and tropical forests and living diversity. We do this mindlessly, for the sake of coming home with shopping trophies that were CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! We think we’re feathering our nest for today, while we’re really, in total impact of our getting, taking from the stock of forests and soils that our survivors will rely on to, er, survive.
This is the OLD economy and it is most certainly dying, even as it gives us the illusion it is making us rich. If you follow very many of today’s tragedies, they trace back to our attempts to push the machinery harder in hopes that a little more will make us a little happier and make the world a safer, healthier and more resilient place. It is not working.
There will have to be a new way of doing things. It will not allow us to operate under the illusion that we can take without giving back. It will not pretend that growth, efficiency and profit are legitimate measures of well-being. It will have to be a progressive zero-growth steady state household of man-with-planet. There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, Marshall McLuhan has said. We are all crew. There is only so much oxygen and we have a long way to travel.
Is there such a thing as Prosperity Without Growth? There had better be.