The end of economic growth?

Fossil fuel depletion, and an awareness that these fuels have negative environmental impacts and economic consequences are lending credence to the notion of an ‘end of economic growth’.   We have been growing on borrowed time.

  • Alternative energy resources will need massive investment and decades of innovation and refinement before they can come anywhere near plugging the gap between our consumption and production aspirations and the earth’s ability to provide the non-renewable resources we need to sate them
  • What are the consequences for our modern democracies as politicians realise they cannot promise the illusion of endless prosperity?
  • What are the consequences for our populations and their aspirations?
  • Could peak oil (that is, fossil fuel depletion) deliver the coup de grace to economies tottering under the burden of the credit crunch?
  • Is the search for new oil fields, harder to reach and of variable quality, economically sustainable?
  • Peak coal and iron extraction is within sight, the energy required to deliver new resources is expensive and getting more so . . .
  • Rare earth elements are mainly being extracted in China and India, these non-renewable resources are used in smart phones and much modern technology. Not unreasonably, these vast new and growing economies question why they should continue to prop up Western economies . . .
  • Fracking to reach natural gas resources will deliver some new energy but with massive environmental impacts . . . and consequences for ground water and agriculture . . .
  • Uranium, used to deliver nuclear power, might help but only in terms of providing electricity and again with consequences in terms of disposing spent radioactive material . . .
  • The higher cost of oil and transport will pass down the supply chain to consumers, but the food system we enjoy in the West artifically suppresses prices usually at cost to the farmer or producer. Does this mean we will see agriculture change massively in terms of the scale of production and a move towards monoculture?
  • We are on the brink of a food crisis within the next decade, and genetic modification will not help . . .

 As economies grow so the need for oil to meet production demands increases, which in an age of scarcity means higher oil prices to limit demand, effectively killing economic growth . . .

Until we accept the situation and change our way of life, we will have to face the consequences of our denial to date.

This short video explains these complex scenarios succinctly.   In a related piece which will follow later, there are also solutions for companies and consumers.

For now, see the video, think and above all act to change your life and consumption habits:

If we want to have a future better than our past, we and our companies need to stand for something by solving social and environmental challenges, while also making money.

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