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World Spirit and Ecological Growth
Berlin, in November 2012, DG

Some days ago I participated in a political business congress about the Green New Deal. One panel discussed the topic of economic growth. I observed that arguments were exchanged controversially pro and contra growth. Those pro arguments for growth were:

Economic growth guarantees employment, secure pension funds and increasing wealth of both society and individuals whereby chaos as recently in Greece arises if those growth goals were not fulfilled.

Arguments against economic growth focused on depletion of natural resources, e. g. peak oil economy, on environmental degradation like climate change due to CO2 emissions, global warming, rising sea levels due to melting

Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki, Jared Diamond said Easter Island provides the best historical example of a societal collapse in isolation

polar ice shields, desertification, devastation by floods and hurricanes, etc..

Both sides were arguing bitterly to advocate their points of view when I tried to enter the discussion with something like a compromise insight: Well, I said, its not useful to discuss the term economic growth in general. First, it has to be considered in detail. What kind of growth do we believe isn´t suitable in order to support the global welfare of human society? And which growth is sustainable and ecological? Second, nature itself provides examples of growth and decline, of self-renewing cycles in which phases of growth and of decrease result in a vivid equilibrium. An Earth in Balance as Al Gore, the Nobel laureate, proposed has to find a middle way for human society and economy. Third, I argued, I don´t know enough about reasons and how the dynamic of the current economy developed.

To find out more, I approached the controversial theme Economical Growth and I was shocked. First, I realized that I had already discussed these matters years ago especially in Western Germany and before the conservative party took power in 2005. What especially happened since then is that the public interest and discussion shifted to the financial crises and culminates now in the state´s debts crisis. Second, the data about the environmental crisis worsened. I felt like a TV Zapper who couldn´t watch anymore the first channel with documentaries about the environmental crisis. I changed to the second channel which brought only reports about the Euro Crisis. The fact that the third and all further channels were occupied by war in Palestine and Iraq and crime and sexual abuse of the catholic church made me switch off TV entirely. I deduced the apocalypse is near and I cannot do anything against it. Well, I said, if it is unavoidable then it will come. 

Graph of human population from 10,000 BC – 2,000 AD showing the unprecedented population growth since the 19th century, whereby around 0 AD it was by 200 mio., in Oct. 2011 7 bil. and in 2040 by UN estimation 9,3 bio.

What can I do with it? I can try to find the beauty and the well-being here and now and that is every where and at every time.

OK, nevertheless, I think it´s important to have a closer look at what is going on. I discovered a chart about the demographic development, the global demographic development. It showed an hyper-exponential increase in the number of human beings since beginning 18th century. What we have to know about exponential and especially hyper exponential increases is: The essential happens at the very end when it is too late to influence anything.

Two remarks: What happened at the very point of the demographic chart which is around the year 1720? And, if we consider this enormously rising figure of human beings as rising against a hindrance, like a wave of life crushing against a wall, what comes behind this wall or what is this wall?

I learned from a Swiss newspaper, and it sounds proper to me that the Swiss think this way, that the modern monetary system evolved in the years after founding the Bank of England in 1694 and the first capitalist crisis by issuing bank -notes. It is a system which is based on credit. It is the credit which is represented in those bank -notes as an official currency. At that time it was only partly covered by gold. Instead, it was covered by the promise of a future success which ended in England with the South Sea Bubble and in France with the Mississippi Bubble. The point of economic growth is: Credit in itself forces success and such success results only through growth. Growth based on credit isn't something nature knows. Natural growth is based on savings.

My second remark regarding the wall human life tries to climb by rising up to overpopulation is much more a picture. The wall consists of the finiteness of the round planet Earth. It is like the horizon above the sky. Behind it comes the infinity of the universe which may be something like the ocean for prehistoric men unable to travel it.

But this finiteness implies the depletion of natural resources and the limited capacity of planet earth to provide shelter for a certain species.

To conclude, the shift from the environmental crisis debate to the state debt crisis debate is dependent and interconnected. The insight that natural resources, environmental crisis and overpopulation do not guarantee anymore that the existing economic system based on credit growth will be able to produce a return of investment makes it necessary that the financial system insists on immediate pay back of debts. This closes the circulus vitiosus of the state debt crisis and of the ecological crisis. They are interconnected whereby it is not individuals but the world spirit as a mass phenomenon that drives us all into it.

The only way out appears to be the change of the economic system into a sustainable ecological economy. Those parts of the economy which are ecological may form the social economic islands floating above the disaster - or you may say collapse - of the former over-exploitation economy and society. More over, as cruel as it may sound what does a political power in possession of military forces care if millions, if even more then millions of people die as long as its own system is provided with its needs? What counts is productive capital, scientific knowledge and efficiency of innovations in order to rule within the human disaster. The only point where this thinking comes to an end is the ecological depletion of the planet as it is its own base. Jared Diamond, with his analysis of the prehistoric culture of the Easter Islands, gave an allegory for the human society on planet earth. Diamond said, “Easter Island provides the best historical example of a societal collapse in isolation” and I can add: Planet earth remains till now quite isolated in the universe.


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