03 September 2009

94 Days - Welcoming an Economic Depression (A Guest Post)

With thanks to Remi Charron, a concerned father and expert in solar homes and sustainable housing, for this post:

Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity and other life on Earth. The world needs to come together and drastically reduce, if not eliminate, its greenhouse gas emissions in short order. This monumental task will require global collaboration like we have never seen before. However, if our focus is simply to eliminate global warming, humanity and the world will still be in great peril. Why? Global warming is simply a symptom of a bigger problem.

Humans have unleashed a cancer on our biosphere and it has metastasized, with global warming being only one of a number of tumours. Others include deforestation, increasing fish stock collapse, the extinction of over 70 life forms per day, collapse of global fresh water supplies, etc. They are all related; it is one big cancer. 

Here's a definition of cancer:

A class of diseases in which a group of cells displays uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood).

Some say that humans themselves are the cancer that plagues the Earth. However, we are part of Nature; we are as natural as the birds and the bees. But we have become a group of cells in uncontrolled growth. 

In my mind, it largely stems from our current need to have sustained economic growth. The model of continual growth the global economy relies on treats natural resources and the environment as externalities in infinite supply, and puts a huge value on money. 

In reality, the concept of money is made up. It is simply a bunch of 1's and 0's and coloured paper going from one hand to another. Nature and its natural resources are real. That is where the real value lies.

Stopping the spread of the cancer — indeed, curing it — requires the global economy to shrink and shrink and shrink, until humanity can once again be in balance with Nature. 

Is growth possible? Yes, as with the definition of cancer, cells can grow within normal limits. But we have grown way beyond those limits, and need a period of sustained economic contraction to return to a healthy balance. 

Current politicians have limited or no money to stop global warming, yet easily find trillions of dollars to slow or stop a recession. The challenge is to get the world to embrace a sustained depression and find a way to spread the hardship so that we can remain happy and upbeat, while coming out at the end better off than we started. 

What we face cannot be fixed through technology, but requires a whole new mindset.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?