(This letter was published in the Chapel Hill News, 22 October 2006.)
Let us take a moment to appreciate our neighbor, Winston L. Kirby, for the Oct. 11 letter to the editor, “Growth mentality seems unalterable.” Thankfully, what seems to be real is occasionally an illusion.
Such is the case with regard to the growth of the seemingly unalterable and endlessly expanding global economy. On a small planet with limited resources, our children will tell us, the requirements of reality simply make clear that the current scale and rate of economic globalization will soon become patently unsustainable.
Robert J. Samuelson recently indicated that the world economy has expanded by 20 percent since 2001 and, I might add, that this growth cannot continue ad infinitum in a finite world. Is there any conceivable way to continue such maximal, unbridled expansion of big business activities? Are we not depleting natural resources and destroying the environment in the process of growing the economy: that is to say, “the human world” is dissipating “the natural world” much faster than nature can renew itself for our benefit?
The human species is 6.5-plus billion in number and expected to reach 9 billion people within the lifetime of some of us living now. Can anyone imagine a way the resources of this tiny planet will sustain so many people? On Earth today, 3.7 billion human beings exist on resources valued at less than $2 per day for each person. Given the monumental challenges of sustaining humanity in 2006, what is likely to become of life as we know it in our planetary home a decade from now?
We can choose to limit the amount of goods and services we consume and accumulate; we can decide have fewer offspring; and we can organize the human economy so that it functions more like the economy of nature, something resembling a dynamic, steady-state economy.
Steven Earl Salmony