I felt I had to respond to John Kay’s comment on last Philosophy Friday’s blog. Maybe he voiced what other people were thinking. Or maybe not. Anyway, it raises a couple of interesting points.
He says: “No, we don’t need economic growth, but without it we wouldn’t have ipods or cell phones, or any sort of phone for that matter. No computers, either. It’s economic growth that gives us the leisure to follow you on your adventures and allows you to go on those adventures.”
John, with all due respect, I am afraid I have to disagree with you. Our techno-toys may well be the product of the old growth-driven economic model, but that does not mean to say that no growth = no innovation in the future. I am no economist, I confess, so maybe I am missing something here, but I see no reason why companies cannot be driven to do things better rather than do things bigger. Stability does not have to mean stagnation.
As to leisure, it has been calculated that hunter-gatherers spend (or spent) about 17 hours a week doing their “work” of obtaining food, leaving plenty of time for leisure. When I was part of the world of paid work, as a management consultant in London, I was working around 60 hours a week, with an hour’s commute each way, leaving enough time to make a quick supper and collapse in front of the TV. So I am not at all convinced that economic growth leads to more leisure. As to my adventures, pilgrims went on their pilgrimages long before the start of the industrial age. So again, I don’t see the connection to economic growth.
To hear from somebody who knows better than I what they are talking about, I would highly recommend Tim Jackson’s inspiring and convincing lecture on “Prosperity without Growth “. John goes on to say: “We (at least some of us) know what the problem is. What we don’t know is what solution would work, how to implement it, how soon we could tell whether it actually works and what to do if it fails and makes matters worse.
“Sorry to seem pessimistic, but it’s hard to find any example of a major change implemented successfully without causing other problems – the Mongol invasion of Western Europe, French Revolution, China’s “Great Leap Forward”, Hitler’s solution, India/Pakistan partition, European Union….
“I’m always on your side, Roz; just trying to be realistic. Arousing people’s interest in the problem – as you do so well – is a good start but leaves us frustrated about what we can actually do apart from demanding that someone else does something.”
Again, I’m going to refer to minds superior to my own, with these two quotes:
“Let people accomplish your objective their way.” (Clark Johnson)
“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” (Aldous Huxley)
I agree with you, John, that demanding that somebody else do something rarely succeeds. I was in Copenhagen for COP15, and came away with grave doubts that the tough decisions we need will be made by democratically elected leaders.
My philosophy is very much that we each have to live consciously and responsibly, and spread ripples of change by encouraging (but not telling) other people what we are doing and why.
I have a firm policy of not telling people what to do. I may say what I would do, or ask them to do something, but I have enough difficulty running my own life without trying to run other people’s as well. 🙂
But if I were in your shoes, John, I would be very grateful to be living on a nice-sized plot of land with a few helpful relatives on hand. I would figure out how I can be as self-sufficient as possible – in energy and food – and put my land to good use. And I would tell people about what I am doing, knowing that although I can’t personally change what people in China or India or Brazil are doing, everything I do has the potential to spread ripples of change.
You can’t go wrong with this course of action. It can’t make matters worse. It may well make them better. If the worst comes to the worst, you and your family will be insulated from the worst effects. And if nothing else. it will keep you so busy you won’t have time to be frustrated about the state of the world.
This blog is plenty long enough already. but a few quick hellos, and a reminder that our latest podcast episode, “Farmer in the Waves” is now live at the Roz Roams website. Oh, and an update on the rowing: still rough and splashy-bashy rowing across the waves, making slow progress.
Tom – great question on free will. To be pondered and cogitated upon!
Karen Morss – congrats on deciding to go solar! Makes great sense for you in Emerald Hills. I am enjoying a jar of your plum jam at the moment. Goes great with my cashew-and-cranberry rawfood crackers!
Shana – so sorry, didn’t mean to be rude about your iPod comment! But penance in form of sponsored miles very much appreciated – thank you. I am trying to find a way that I can post some info about progress without giving too much away. I’ll keep you posted.
Rich Raistrick – Nicola mentioned your trip to the Azores. I sailed there from Cape Verde in 2005. Gorgeous! How are the hens doing?
Inky – so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. She sounds like a very special lady, brave and resilient. I will be honoured to row the miles sponsored in her name.
Thanks for the IDs on the mahi-mahi, Bob and Jean Francois!
And finally, the quote for the day: “Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.” (John Updike)
Photo: spreading ripples – arriving in Waikiki, 2008
Sponsored Miles: Thanks to Doug Grandt for more miles sponsored.
Good on ya, Roz!
This is why I give money to http://bit.ly/RozRippleEffect Foundation and give you encouragement by http://bit.ly/Sponsor_A_Mile
Gonna repost my comment from Day 17, May 5, 2010 …
This may not be the best literary work, but I am convinced:
Ripples from your mind
Spreading steadily outward.
Sea change! Go Roz Go!
Row with conviction, Roz!
Roz, Great blog today and I will have to re-read as is my custom, but I think I agree with all your points!
Ha, if only I could get rain for my garden and if I could buy raw milk locally!! Maybe I just need a grassfed pet cow and eat safe, wild plants!
As long as the world population continues to grow, we need economic growth to absorb the new bodies.
Very true, Jerry. I think Roz’s point is that unfettered exponential growth mindlessly exploiting finite resources under the paradigm (or economic growth model) we have followed the past several decades is not sustainable. The current version will not work for the long haul and it needs tweaking. Gus Speth addresses it in his book “The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.” For a short version, his lecture delivered January 21, 2010 is a quick read: “A New American Environmentalism and the New Economy” — a mere 23 pages. Download at http://bit.ly/GusNewEco … highly recommended ;-D
10,000 years ago if you put all mankind, their pets, cattle, goats, etc, all man had on a scale it would have amounted to 0.01% of the worlds animals. Today it amounts to 98%. I think that we have overrun our planet! And we talk about more growth?
That 98% looks a bit high-ish … any source for the number?
New problems create new opportunities for business. Stricter regulations for instance for water create opportunities for progressive companies to develop innovative solutions to those problems. We all face what looks like overwhelming global problems, so you simply do what You can. For me, I am letting 11 acres of land go to grasses creating habitat and pulling co2 from the air and converting it to cellular material. Oh, that and fighting export of coal to China through Washington ports by writing letters to county executives, governors. I believe it does matter, these small things.
I’ve not had internet access for several days and have only skimmed the blog and comments from the last few days but will chime in now.
The reason for the lack of web access is that I am on a “dream’ trip to Europe planned for a decade or so. We are busily chasing down family history and visiting relatives still on this side of the pond.
Right now I’m in a B & B near Omagh in N. Ireland. Roz’s comments about British food from a couple day’s ago prompt this note from tonight’s supper: While N Ire is not England, it is still part of GB, my meal was wonderful with a nice plate of veggies including carrots, parsnips, cauliflower and peas. I was over here 40 years ago and remember not so fondly the large overripe things they served then. Tonight the peas were the same style except boiled to nearly mush and covered with cream sauce. Everything has improved greatly – except the peas.
Luckily for most US Citizens most places now offer a “mini-Irish (English)” breakfast. In Ireland that means 1 less sausage and no black pudding. They are probably only 1500 calories instead of 2000 and there are no offensive ingredients. ‘nuf said.
Now a comment on the state of food in the world. The one thing that many fail to see in “modern” agriculture – organic or otherwise – is that most of the agricultural regions now supplying the people of the earth rely on irrigation to grow grains, fruits and vegetables. Most of that irrigation is done with “mined” groundwater or over appropriated rivers. That means the irrigation is not sustainable. So when you are looking for food that is raised sustainably, where the water comes from needs to be taken into account too. Soybeans from Kansas, corn from Nebraska and wheat form North Texas are probably not sustainable. In fact a good 1/3 of US agriculture is grown using unsustainable irrigation.
We need to rethink our ag model in more ways than just the use of fertilizer, pesticides and GMO’s. If only our population were small enough that we could go back to the hunter-gatherer system. That is the diet we “grew up” on and is probably the best for us – and the planet.
I’ll get off my soap box again for a while. Roz, Keep us thinking about the alternatives to the way we live now.
Roz row on and on and on and may the wind be always at your back.
So what did hunter gathers do the other 13 or so hours of their waking day? I think I’d go nuts. As for economic growth, that’s an illusion fostered by generations of economists and businessmen who were fooled themselves. The model is humanity harnessed into a self perpetuating industrial machine built to make money in a manner inconsistent with human nature. Many of the so called benefits wouldn’t be necessary at all without the system. In a way its similar to 20th Century Warfare or “Total War” as Clausewitz’s intellectual heirs developed it. Humans are fighting creatures when faced with the appropriate stimuli. But we were never near meant to be as 24/7 fierce as required by “Total War” theorists and the militaries they developed. This path brought us through two world wars and nearly led us to self destruction-and might yet do so. I once comfortably believed modern man was so much more civilized than our ancient and medieval counterparts. But in reviewing the last century and this one I’m no longer sure. But I am sure something new must be developed and tried.
Reusing plastic bottles and saving energy! Followed this interesting article back to the source “A bottled liter of water with a few teaspoons of bleach is proving to be a successful recipe for dwellers in the light-deprived slums of the Philippines. The simple technology is spreading sunlight in places where it has never been, and saving residents money at the same time. “http://uk.reuters.com/video/2011/07/11/bringing-light-to-the-poor-one-liter-at?videoId=216968892&videoChannel=82An old idea known as a “Light Prism” that has been used on ships with a new environmental twist.Blog comment:”Progress” vs “Stagnation” ancient Greece produced progress but also championed stagnation, change was frowned upon and the status quo encouraged. There is a fine line between a culture that changes and one that stagnates. I’m not sure it’s safe to go too close to that line in case it’s a tipping point and not a line….. any comments?Jim Bell (Australia)
on a more practical note for some of us… My headlight/tourch/flashlight (for camping), is often too bright for reading in tent or dinner at camp. I loop it around my nalgene or similar transluscent water bottle facing inwards for a diffused light. thanks for the post Jim!
Roz, curious to know of any tips or tricks that you have developed to make your quarters more tolerable.
Row Roz Row!
It’s easy to say that when you have lived your whole life in a country with an GDP per capita of US$ 34920 a year. Come to brazil and try to buy a boat with US$ 11239 a year.
As a inhabitant of a (rapidly) developing country I have witnessed in my lifetime the power that economic growth has on human societies. I saw my standard of living go up from barely affording three meals a day to eating out two times a week and a one week trip every two years.
Really Roz? You want people to be self-supporting in their own patch of land? Never mind the fact that without the wonder of specialization and modern farming techniques there is no way that such arrangement would produce enough food for everyone to eat and billions would starve to death. Not even cutting all the forests down would be enough to feed everyone.
You are either:
Narcissist for thinking that only because economic growth has made little effect on your life it will make no meaningful effect on anyone’s life.
Psychopath for wanting billions to starve to death so the few remaining could live in your self-supporting utopia.
It’s about sustainability…
If we want to avert the deaths of billions then homo sapiens needs to get its collective act together…what do you think is Earth’s carrying capacity for our species? For us all to be prosperous…even just fed three good meals a day, we’ve over shot it… it is what it is…it doesn’t mean anybody “wants” it.
As for Brazil’s $11,239 per capita; what would it be if mom and dad held back and just replaced themselves? It might be on par w/ the UK’s. Does the prosperity depend on population growth and resource depletion? It can’t.
We are out of balance Somensi; the question we need to ask is “do we want to reach for the balance and change to achieve it or have it thrust upon us?”
Where is the data showing that we have over shot it? You say that like it’s obvious, it isn’t.
Also, I don’t like the way you imply that people in developing nations are poor because they have many kids. This is pure prejudice, and since the best weapon against prejudice is data, here is some for you:
United States fertility rate: 2.05
Iceland fertility rate: 2.05
Ireland fertility rate: 1.96
Brazil fertility rate: 1.90
Also, it’s more likely that wealth leads to less kids than the other way around. An anecdotal evidence: my grandmother once told me that their living standard rose for every kid they had, since they got another person to work in the farm for free. Call it child slave labor if you want, but every mother would rather have their kids working hard than starving.