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Humankind’s biggest challenge this century

January 5, 2011

“Humankind is in a box. For the 2.7 billion people now living on less than $2 a day, economic growth is essential to satisfying the most basic requirements of human dignity. And in much wealthier societies, people need growth to pay off their debts, support liberty, and maintain civil peace. To produce and sustain this growth, they must expend vast amounts of energy. Yet our best energy source — fossil fuel — is the main thing contributing to climate change, and climate change, if unchecked, will halt growth.

We can’t live with growth, and we can’t live without it. This contradiction is humankind’s biggest challenge this century, but as long as conventional wisdom holds that growth can continue forever, it’s a challenge we can’t possibly address.”

Thomas Homer-Dixon writing in Foreign Policy magazine’s series on ‘unconventional wisdom‘.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011 4:56 pm

    Do we indeed need growth to pay off our debt? We need an income – or company revenue – to pay off our debt. Growth we need because our debt comes with self replicating interest. If there were no interest, the money lenders would directly have to participate in investment risk since they only could profit if their investments turned out profitable. Andy why not give private credits with fixed fees? Why should debt be allowed to multiply forever?

    Here is how I see it: we cannot live at all with continuous, exponential growth. It will destroy us completely. We can live – even now – without it, albeit probably in a miserable way nobody would want. People will fight for the resources. And if it is true that 2.7 billion people live in absolute poverty now, that probably is – in absolute numbers – more than ever before. Since every individual tragedy counts, there was no progress. More people suffer than ever. Looking at an improvement of relative numbers does not strike me as overly useful. And I cannot imagine that the numbers will improve.

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