Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Impossible Hamster

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Was today sent a link to this great hamster animation (below). I've written a lot on this topic before, saying for instance: 'Growing the economy in the way we have been, particularly its transport and energy intensive nature, is reducing our capacity to live without undermining the systems that support life ...Why? It is: decreasing the overall natural assets stock; damaging ecosystem regenerative capacity and their ability to supply goods and services; emitting wastes and pollutants into the environment at levels beyond its ability to safely process them; causing high levels of social inequality [NB - report published today states the inequality in the UK is large and deep rooted]; leaving generations to come with a build up of risks and costs; consistently undervaluing both humans and non-human species; not switching resource use from finite, non-renewable to renewable types on anything like a sufficient scale or at a sufficient rate; not efficiency focussed; consuming renewable resources like forests, soil or fish…at a faster rate than they are replenished due to poor management practices.'(more here). Was obviously happy to send the email on economic growth (see below) suggested by campaign group 38 Degrees to Gordon Brown - click here if you want to send one too.

Dear Gordon Brown,
You have said that the global economy is set to double in the next 20 years.
Yet as economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond, some very real environmental limits. In fact, every doubling in the global economy requires the equivalent in resources of all of the previous doublings combined.

Think of it like this. We have tended to think of growth as natural for economies, forgetting that in nature things grow only until maturity and then develop in other ways. A hamster, for example, doubles its weight each week between birth and puberty. But if it grew at the same rate until its first birthday, we’d be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a year’s worth of world maize production every day. There are good reasons why things don’t grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, so sooner or later, they must be in the economy.

Endless growth is pushing the planet’s biosphere beyond its safe limits. The price is compromised world food security, climatic upheaval, economic instability and threats to social welfare. We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget because there is no global, environmental central bank to bail us out if we become ecologically bankrupt

I would like you to watch this short animation and then tell me how you think economic growth can carry on for ever and ever and ever…

Yours sincerely,