Sunday, October 28, 2007

Unsustainable Growth

Exponential growth, by its nature is unsustainable. Even if we could consume all matter, the amount of resources reachable each year (consumption) would ultimately be limited by the maximum speed that we could attain, and even with the most advanced conceivable technologies, the laws of physics won’t let us exceed the speed of light. Consequentially a population addicted to such growth is bound to be disappointed.

Gross World Product, the world’s GDP, tends to vary linearly with cumulative consumption (total mass consumed). Exponential growth in the world’s economy is therefore accompanied by an exponential growth in cumulative consumption and its attendant waste. As we approach the limits of our consumable resources and the speed with which we can access them and process them into usable products, our growth is rapidly impeded by the deleterious impact of the waste we cannot “externalize” (put in a place where it won’t harm us).

Those parts of our population that consume the most have chosen to put their waste in places where it does not directly affect them, causing others less powerful to deal with its burdens. As the world has become more integrated, the quantity of waste has grown beyond the ability of the poor to deal with it. Everyone must now deal with the consequences: In decreased health, violence against the polluters, and damage to global climate and biological systems which support us all.

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