As Dr. Albert Bartlett, www.albartlett.org , at the University of Colorado said, "Any entity that grows beyond maturity suffers obesity or cancer." That applies to persons, companies, cities and civilizations! Examples abound throughout history. Yet, in the 21st century, American corporations engineer growth, command expansion, and celebrate their own cancerous growth paths. Along the way, no one accounts for or concerns themselves with environmental devastation on multiple levels.
What if we stopped fighting development and fought the system of economic growth?
I asked Canadian writer Tim Murray about changing strategies:
"Environmentalists rally to defend an endangered habitat and finally win the battle to designate it as a park forever," said Murray. "Nature Conservancy wins for a moment, but the economic growth machine turns to surrounding lands and exploits them ever more intensively, causing more species loss than ever before, putting even more lands under threat.
"For each acre of land that comes under protection, two acres are developed, and 40% of all species lie outside of parks. Nature Conservancy Canada may indeed have "saved"---at least for now-- two million acres, but many more millions have been raped. And the rape continues, until, once more, on a dozen other fronts, development comes knocking at the door of a forest, or a marsh, or a valley that many hold sacred.
"Once again, environmentalists, fresh from an earlier conflict, drop everything to rally its defense, and once again, if they are lucky, yet another section of land is declared off-limits to logging, mining, and exploration. They are like a fire brigade that never rests, running about, exhausted, trying to put out one brush fire after another, year after year, decade after decade, winning some battles but losing the war."
YET GROWTH CONTINUES BEYOND CARRYING CAPACITY
occasional set-backs, the growth machine continues more furiously, and finally,
even lands which had been set aside "forever" come under pressure,"
said Murray. "As development gets closer, the protected land becomes more
valuable, and more costly to protect. Then government, under the duress of
energy and resource shortages and the dire need for royalties and revenue,
caves in to allow industry a foothold, then a chunk, then another. Yosemite
Park, Hamber Provincial Park, Steve Irwin Park.....the list goes on. There is
no durable sanctuary from economic growth. Any park that is made by
legislation can be unmade by legislation. Governments change and so do
circumstances. But growth continues and natural capital shrinks. And things are
not even desperate yet.
"Here's a thought. Stop fighting the brush fire. Stop investing time and effort in fighting for park preservation, and instead direct that energy into stopping economic growth. Let's blow the whistle on Ponzi economics, on growing credit for a growing population that requires endless growth to service growing debts. If the same energy that was put into endless battles to save the environment piecemeal had been put into lobbying for a steady state economy, development pressure everywhere would cease, and habitat would be safe everywhere. After all, what area is not "sacred"?
"For most of us who care about nature, bypassing local fights would seem like driving by an accident scene without stopping to offer help. Environmentalism, after all, is typically born from passionate concern about a threatened treasure very close to our hearts. But as General MacArthur concluded during the Pacific War, to achieve the long-term strategic objective, it is sometimes necessary to conserve strength by "island-hopping" over enemy strong points so that resources can be saved to fight the bigger, more decisive battles. Each of us has only so much time and energy to budget for the cause. The question is, are we deploying it to our best advantage? So far, environmental victories have been won at the cost of losing the strategic war. Environmental watchdogs bark, but the growth caravan moves on.
"The practice of designating hallowed places as nature reserves must no longer be seen as "victories," but rather as concessions. They are permits issued to keep on growing as long as a relatively small portion of the land base is left off the shopping list. The declaration by certain politicians to "protect" 12 percent of our land surface from exploitation is a permit to leave 88 percent unprotected. What they are really talking about, is "licensed exploitation." It is like paying the mob not to rob your neighborhood, so that they can ravage others. The Saxons called it Danegeld, and all it bought was time. What is magical about this 12 percent? Does 12 percent somehow represent the area of land necessary to protect wilderness and wildlife? Or is it a political figure designed to achieve a compromise between conservationists and developers?
"Sir Peter Scott once commented that the World Wild Life Fund would have saved more wildlife if they had dispensed free condoms rather than invested in nature reserves. Biodiversity is primarily threatened by human expansion, which may be defined as the potent combination of a growing human population and its growing appetite for resources. Economic growth is the root cause of environmental degradation, and fighting its symptoms is the Labor of Sisyphus."
For a final question Mr Murray, how do we stop growth and balance ourselves with the planet?
"How about birth control and family planning?" said Murray. "I can tell you this, either we do it, or at some definite point in the future, our collapsing environment will do it for us. We won't like Mother Nature's methods."