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GLOBAL GROWTH: Betting on another good year
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Mail and letter to Mr Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, 10 February 2007

Dear Mr. Gowers.

"Rarely has the world had it so good." writes your economics editor, Mr Giles on January 23. Because of the prospect of high economic growth, he argues.

This statement should be put into the context of a world with a finite capacity, dwindling resources and increasing environmental worries.

The FT's online publicity shows a globe increasingly covered by your newspaper - a graphic recognition of the fact that the globe is indeed round and that it could indeed disappear beyond financial and economic thought patterns.

In his article on reducing the risk of climate change, Mr Martin Wolf writes on February 7 "...a price of just 1 per cent of GDP, we should pay willingly. This would lose the world just four months of growth, ..."

Apart from the debate on the validity of such calculations, it appears many people say "growth" but actually mean employment and welfare, i.e. products.

Many opinion-leaders including the Financial Times, push for economic growth - the higher the better, it seems.

Growth, however, always means the expansion of production, i.e. the conversion of resources into products for human consumption. This is also true for "qualitative growth" and in case of shifts into services, as long as growth is measured in units of GDP.

The Financial Times, in your own publicity, claims presenting intelligence in your articles. Economically and financially that may be very justified. But ecologically pushing for growth equals driving the world toward total depletion.

In the long run we're all dead, said John Maynard Keynes. But many of us do have children and grandchildren who will find it extremely difficult to survive on a planet that we are depleting at an increased speed because of economic growth.

The images show our present scenario of a planet that we are reducing to nothing for our grandchildren.

One can debate whether this is imminent or not. But what's the difference? One, or two, or three generations from now? Humanity has lived sustainably for at least 4000 generations, until we started our modern industrial age around 1750, ten generations ago.

Climate change, peak oil, water scarcity, declining biodiversity, deforestation - hard factual statistics point to insurmountable resource problems by the middle of this century.

Environmental problems and wars are both a sign of human overexploitation of the earth. One can keep arguing about the level of overshoot of the earth's carrying capacity. But it is sure that we must reduce our pressure rather than increase our numbers and per capita consumption.

Would the Financial Times, Mr Gowers, have the courage to debate the wisdom of economic growth on a finite planet?

I thank you for your attention and reaction.

Kind regards,

Helmut E Lubbers,
ecological psychologist BE MSocSc DipEcol
14 Carl-Vogt, CH-1205 Geneva
+41-22-3212320 helmut at ecoglobe dot ch

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