31 January, 2009

Addicted to growth

"We used to think you could spend your way out of recession ...  I tell you, in all candour, that option no longer exists. " Jim Callaghan 1976 Labour party conference.

Whether or not those words were true then, in light of the 'recession' we are unwittingly bestowing on Gaia, they are certainly true today. In very crude terms, the more the economies of the world grow the more the natural economy of the earth is compromised and displaced.

Recently there seems to be a growing realisation of this more serious airtime given to the ideas of the growing base of the enlightened among us who see this global recession as an opportunity to re-evaluate the core values of the world's economic system and as a real chance for building a better economic system which values decisions based on quality of life rather than profit and the futile pursuit of unlimited growth and increasing GDP. 

As Herman Daly reminds us in his paper on the virtues of Steady-state Economics: the verb "to grow" has become so overladen with positive value connotations that we have forgotten its first literal dictionary denotation, namely, "to spring up and develop to maturity." Thus the very notion of growth includes some concept of maturity or sufficiency, where by physical accumulation gives way to physical maintenance; that is, growth gives way to a steady state. It is important to remember that "growth" is not synonymous with "betterment."

Still though, world leaders are unquestioningly following growth as the ends rather than the means to the ridiculous point where we have the Taiwanese government giving each citizens over $100 shopping vouchers as if it will be a cure to the countries economic woes. And here in Japan, we have the Prime Minister proudly announcing a similar scheme, while a local city government is giving over $1,100 to people who purchase a new Mitsubishi vehicle. 

Consider for a moment - giving people more money to consume when every kg of consumables produced by our current economic system, in turn, creates a staggering impact on the environment - an average of 32kgs of waste. 

Alternatively, rather than wasting money on these mindless and irresponsible schemes couldn't it just be redirected to public social and environmental programs?  President Obama seems to be more in line with this reality by pledging to implement a huge spending scheme to create new jobs in the renewable energy sector.
As highlighted in the film the 11th Hour when is the time going to come when, all governments and policy makers switch back the ends and the means so that once again quality of life rather than growth is the focus for 'development'? 

The first step is to ditch GDP as a measure of a country's development and replace it with one which more accurately measures development .... but that's another blog I guess

06 January, 2009

Conditioning from conveniences

On a very merry night out in Osaka on New Year's Eve, while coming out of a pub housed on the 1st floor (2nd floor in Japan), seeing exiting customers waiting for the lift to go down to the floor below got me going. 

How is it that we have got to the point where people unquestionably wait for a lift (elevator) to come to their aid for moving up or even down one floor, when next to the lift there is a 'manual' device (stairs!) which invariably offers the same service in a quicker and cheaper (in environmental and health terms) manner?

While my cohort on that night's merriment thought that moaning about this point was perhaps taking things too far, but for me it represented a larger problem - our conditioning that comes from conveniences, which paradoxically, leads us to lose-lose habitual actions and decision-making. 

In everyday life similar the results of this conditioning can be seen everywhere. Just go to any check-out counter to see shop assistants putting single items into tiny plastic bags and customers with bags and pockets, unquestionably accepting them.

Anyway, sorry to start the new year with a bit of a moan but once you notice these things you may see that it soon becomes something you need to periodically vocalise, or indeed, blog about.

May 2009 be filled with a greater awareness about how we are being conditioned and where it is leading us.