389. GROWTH = JOBS
Through many changes, one thing stays constant in the peak oil community: opposition to growth. Colin Campbell, Kunstler, Heinberg, virtually the entire staff and readership of the The Oil Drum... They all believe that growth is insane, and have vehemently and incessantly attacked it for years.
I think it's high time that we followed this anti-growth agenda to its logical conclusion.
On the surface, an anti-growth site like The Oil Drum seems to be comprised of very smart, rational people who have the best interests of the public at heart. But is that really true?
Well, there's no doubt that the title of this post is true: Growth = Jobs. So a strong case can be made that anti-growth advocates are very much not in the public's corner. The logic is straightforward:
- Anti-growth advocates (The Oil Drum, Heinberg etc.) are in favor of a halt in growth.
- A halt in growth will cause massive unemployment.
- Therefore, anti-growth advocates are in favor of massive unemployment.
Not quite so convincing, is it? Anti-growth rhetoric tends to be very smug, particularly since it ignores the central brute fact: there is nothing crazy or stupid or deluded or denialist about trying to keep people employed.
Infinite growthEmployment has been so hard wired in the brains of so many, that it will be hard for most to imagine themselves out of having never-ending growtha job as an eternal goal.
If anti-growth advocates were honest, they would admit that a massive depression (i.e. reversal of growth and shrinkage of the economy) is precisely what they are advocating. Some have already made that connection on the climate front:
Will the Downturn Save the Planet?
Many climate change skeptics and eco-fundamentalists will welcome the economic crisis, although some more openly then others.
On the other hand, eco-fundamentalists, many of whom define themselves as anti-capitalist, realized that the contradictions inherent in the market system made a major crisis, possibly a slump, inevitable at some point. Unlike Marxists, though, many welcomed this prospect, since they despaired of any other way to tackle climate change apart from economic collapse, which they think could result in a big reduction in greenhouse gasses. Whether they are correct in that assumption is another matter.
Professor Paul Crutzen, who won the Nobel prize for his work on the depletion of the ozone layer, was quoted by the Reuters news agency on October 7: "It’s a cruel thing to say… but if we are looking at a slowdown in the economy, there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage… we will have a much slower increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere… people will start saving [on energy use]."
Cheer up: You're not unemployed -- you're stopping the growth insanity and saving the planet
This line of thought occurred to me when I was reading about Obama's projected stimulus package, so I asked the folks at the Oil Drum about it:
My point is this: if you genuinely believe that we must stop growth because it is killing us (a view which I believe I can fairly ascribe to the vast majority of people on the Oil Drum), then how can you, in good conscience, support measures which are aimed at reigniting growth, such as Obama's upcoming stimulus package and similar packages in other countries?The responses fell into a few basic types:
1) Don't get pinned down. Change the subject.
2) The dead-end doomer:
"We are GOING to be living in a contracting world, whether we like it or not. My preferences are irrelevant, this is reality and we had best face up to and adjust to it, the sooner the better.3) Fessing up
Yes, a great many people will suffer terribly. That is going to happen and can't be helped. Futile attempts to hang on to the past and sustain the unsustainable will not help them, only hurt them even more." WNC Observer
"I, for one, am completely in favour of shrinking. Growth would condemn billions of people around the world especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia to a continuous life of strife, misery, and violence that is today much worse than the worse Long Emergency scenarios.4) Waffling
The only smart growth is shrinking. That increases the share of the commonwealth available to eash person and decreases the footprint each of us puts on Gaia's neck. We are a heavy burden and we are killing her. And nether can we live without her." Dryki
"(1) Are there sectors that need to grow--yes.
(2) Are there obese sectors or ancient sectors that need to decline or die--yes.
(3) Is the human economy in its totality too large relative to the planet--yes.
Therefore, any stimulus plan needs to increase 1 and allow 2 to decrease so that total economic scale is reduced." Jason Bradford
[JD: Jason pays lip service to the Obama stimulus -- perhaps because he realizes how far outside the mainstream he'll go if he opposes it. Nevertheless, he adds the condition that economic scale must be reduced -- i.e. that the economy must continue to recess and shed jobs.]
"I could support a stimulus package aimed at reinstating a growth economy if it's primary side effect was to invest in renewable energy and to restructure society to be less energy intensive and more socially cohesive.5) Little pleasures:
What better way to kick-start the economy than spending a trillion dollars on wind power, upgrading the electric grid, developing adaptive (electricity) demand infrastructure, building and electrifying light rail systems, (small) electric or hybrid cars, etc. etc.
Of course the stimulus would fail, as we descend the energy slope, but it would be less painful. The US (and UK, and many other economies) are inevitably going to collapse. Better to use whatever credit the government can still control whilst it still has any, to build for the future." RalphW
"I happen to have my own boring list of what those are, things like reading, music, art, science, sailing, being with my loved ones, teaching, learning, watching sunsets, drinking good wine etc.. etc..
Not one of the things on my list requires growth." FMagyar
Ludi (responding to my statement "If you're in favor of a halt to growth; you're in favor of unemployment."): "Yep, sure am! I don't work much and I do pretty well (lower middle-class/working class).The Oil Drum pretends to be a community of rational, serious people who will guide us to a better future. I think the evidence points to exactly the opposite, at least if you regard employment as an important feature of that future. As you can see, anti-growth advocates believe that: a) increasing unemployment can't be reversed or even halted, or b) unemployment should be actively boosted by reducing the size of the economy. Meanwhile, their perspective on being unemployed is "art, music, sailing" and learning to enjoy your "leisure".
Reduce the need to earn, I say. Leisure is wonderful. I spent two hours of my leisure today cutting brush with a handsaw. I'm exhausted but happy."
These views are totally at odds with the need of vast numbers of people to survive and better their lives by obtaining and keeping jobs.
If anti-growth advocates mean to make a serious contribution, they need to cut the self-righteous rhetoric, and address the reality of growth=jobs head on.