The Fruits of Civilization (43) Pollution


I cannot conceive a successful economy without growth. We need expansion to fulfill our nation’s aspirations. In a high-growth economy you have a better chance to free public and private resources to fight the battle of land, air, water and noise pollution than in a low-growth economy. ~ American economist Walter Heller in the early 1960s

If a high-growth economy is needed to fight the battle against pollution, which itself appears to be the result of high growth, what hope is there of ever breaking out of this extraordinary circle? ~ E.F. Schumacher

Economic growth is synonymous with environmental destruction: the invariable seizing of natural resources, almost all of which are not renewable, or restorable only at a cost orders of magnitude greater than their initial exploitation.

After many millennia of relentless exploitation, Earth must be more intensely gouged for raw materials. Economic growth can only consume more land. Meanwhile, freshwater supplies deplete faster than Nature can restore them.

You could decrease environmental impact without hindering economic growth. These are 2 different subsystems. ~ Finnish economist Tuomas Mattila

The economic sectors that do the most environmental damage are not those that employment and other growth factors depend upon. Further, development and application of engineering to reduce environmental impact can spur growth.

Consumption and trade generate waste which is dumped somewhere. In the modern economy, a tiny fraction of that waste is biodegradable on the scale of centuries. Goods last for only a short time. Garbage persists for generations.

A very few species have adapted to living off the leavings of humans, notably rats and flies. Otherwise, economic growth has been a death sentence for habitats, as the pillaging of lands, seas, and air, and the sprawl begotten from human domination, is intolerable to the life that is left unseized for our consumption.

As economies scaled in size, growth became an engine of extinction. Humanity unwittingly passed the tipping point in 1940, as the 2nd World War got underway.

Into the 21st century, with the dawning realization that the natural world has gone awry, no meaningful attempt has been made to turn back the clock toward sustainability – for that would spell the end of economic growth, at least in the minds of those ignorant of economics and unconcerned of impending extinction.

Stop racing toward oblivion. Oh, such a sad, sad state we’re in. ~ American musician Leon Russell in the song “Stranger In A Strange Land” (1971)