The Anti-Growth Manifesto V (The relevance of Socialism)

31 10 2007


For the past few weeks, this column has been arguing that constant economic growth is not only un-achievable but also deeply undesirable.

Unachievable because it is impossible to have unlimited growth in a planet of limited resources. With human population creeping close to seven billion, we collectively consume about a quarter of the world’s biomass but this only satisfies about a fifth of our energy and natural resource hunger. So we are happily mining away the non-renewable resources of petroleum, coal, gas, iron and other metals. This is a situation when an overwhelming majority of the world’s human population lives on less than US $ 2 a day or in utter poverty. Imagine the extraction of natural and non-renewable resources if every one of this blessed planet’s seven billion people lived the life of a West European or North American? Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto IV (The Energy Trap)

17 10 2007


As this column has pointed out a few times in the past, hydrocarbons have been the material foundation on which continuous and limitless economic growth – so characteristic of our industrial societies – is based. It may be useful to recap the main points before we move further.

Hydrocarbons provide concentrated energy in small packets. One litre of petroleum concentrates the energy from 23 tonnes of prehistoric plant matter. Coal, though less energy efficient, is still far superior to charcoal or fresh wood as an energy source. Not only do these hydrocarbons provide high levels of energy, being carbon-based, they are useful for a range of other products for our use like fertilisers, plastics, textiles, medicines and cosmetics, among others. Further, hydrocarbons are easily transportable and storable over time, while at the same time being available in sufficient quantities for globally pervasive, if unequal, use for a few centuries before they run out. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto III (Technology: The Universal Solvent)

10 10 2007


Irrespective of the particular religious affiliation we profess, all of us are in reality worshippers at the temple of technology. From the Osama bin Ladens in the Tora Bora caves to the Christian fundamentalist Bushies ensconced in arrogant Washington, from the smug liberal to the all-sacrificing communist, there is hardly a person in our world who does not bow down in reverence to the all powerful deity of technology and its omniscient promise of providing a solution to all our troubles in this problem-ridden world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto – II (The Need for Speed)

3 10 2007


The two week absence of the Left~write column was caused by the sudden death of my brother-in-law in a road accident in the city of Baroda (India). A young man of 42, he leaves behind an uncomprehending daughter who is not yet seven, a distressed wife and distraught parents. It is difficult to come to terms with the hurt and loss this has caused, especially since it seems so avoidable and inexplicable. ‘Why?’ is the question in everyone’s mind. But even in our moment of sadness it is sobering to realise that close to a 100,000 people die in similar road accidents in India each year. Each death a catastrophe for the family. Globally close to 800,000 people die annually in road accidents, a figure that is expected to touch a million by 2010. Read the rest of this entry »