The film shown by Transition Chichester last night was Hooked on Growth, created by an organisation called Growth Busters. The film is carried through the true story of how Dave Gardner, a film director, becomes so concerned about growth as the only paradigm that he decides to run for election in his home town/city, Colorado Springs.
It is a sad, funny, crazy kind of film with a deeply meaningful message, that we all have to stop thinking of growth as a good thing, we don’t need bigger towns, bigger cars, more of everything, including roads, shops, entertainment venues, and most importantly, we don’t need more people.
One of the most important points for the sceptics of a zero growth economics is that Dave shows that a growing Colorado Springs is not bringing prosperity, just the opposite, the need to promote conditions for companies to ‘invest’ in Colorado Springs means that costs are outstripping additional tax benefits, so tax rates go up and up and the place just gets more congested and not such a nice place to live. As he shows, ask anyone if they like what is happening and they say no, but most people are still, as he says, Hooked on Growth, it is a Mantra, a fundamental Paradigm, almost a religious belief, pumped out to all of us by the media which of course gets its pay from those companies which want more and more ‘growth’.
Dave argues well that prosperity is not about money but about living a rich life, and this is not about living in poverty it is just about getting away from being obsessed with more of everything.
Should you still doubt that an economy can survive and thrive on a no growth policy you must look at this video, by Peter Victor. The beauty of the suggestion is that the economy thrives when we work less, not more. And in doing less ‘paid hours’ we will do more volunteer hours, helping friends, family, the community, so we need to pay people for fewer hours, a ‘vicious cycle’ in the right direction!
So in my little City of Chichester, the message to City Council, District Council, and County Council, must be ‘no more of more of everything’, in fact maybe ‘no more of anything’? So no more houses, we will survive, no more roads, we can find ways of doing with fewer cars, no more shops, we buy enough anyway.
And in the process, the City and District Council can pay people in our local currency, the Tchi, and this means people can pay their council tax in Tchi, and the parking can be paid for in Tchi, why not? Local currency can have a local function, it brings neighbourliness, it brings a sense of responsibility and care, right down to the local level.
And I think this also backs a universal message, which needs to get out to the world, that we cannot afford to continue growing the population as we are. The latest UN median line prediction is 10 billion, and then maybe it goes down. That is close to 50% more people than we have now, and look at the problems it is causing now.
If you look in detail at the statistics it is interesting and scary but very very clear.
Egypt is in the medium fertility band, which means 1 to 1.5 daughters per mother, yet Egypt’s population has grown from 40 to 80 million in 30 years and is set to increase to 130 million, yet Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat!
It is fortunate that now China, Brazil and Russia are in the ‘low fertility band’, being the biggest countries, but the USA, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Egypt are in the medium fertility band! The USA and India must lead the way in the message that the planet is full, no more people than possible, because if the high fertility band countries don’t get the message then we are in serious trouble, as from 2011 to 2100 those countries will increase in population from 1.2 Billion to 4.2 Billion, which amounts to saying, more or less the whole increase will be in the poorest countries, with all the misery that will be caused and the turmoil across the world as food supplies fail and water runs out.
I am close to finishing Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s book, 1492, The Year Our World Began. It is also fascinating, and in it we can see how understanding history helps us understand what is happening now. Felipe points to the beginnings of ‘individualism’, which he says began with the mystics who had a ‘direct line to God’, and has lead to a world which he suggests is based on ‘enlightened self interest’, one person one vote. He sees the beginning of a system which ‘elbows the community to the edge of our priorities’. 1492 was thought to be the year the world would end, Felipe marks it as the year ‘our world’, of ‘enlightened self interest’ began, and of course, we may now see that having edged to community to the edge of our priorities, 1492 is ‘the beginning of the end’ of the world, full stop!
I am not pessimistic, I believe in the ingenuity of mankind, but that ingenuity I think needs to reinvent the community, which also means reinventing the local economic systems, it means reinventing what we understand by property, and prosperity, it means taking ideas like those of Peter Victor, and inspiring our communities to adopt them or reinvent them.