Growth

I check out headlines on a few sites fairly regularly, and today saw one (which I’ve seen before) about how ‘Avatar’ is the highest grossing box-office hit-movie in dollars.  But when one accounts for inflation, ‘Gone With the Wind’ far exceeds it.

Inflation is such a false indicator of growth.  As far as I can tell, it is totally made up and it is a way for people with riches and power to build on those riches and that power.  I remember hearing once that, if someone had invested a penny in Jesus’ lifetime with current rates of compound interest, that all the money in the world today would not cover that investment.  …so I hunted around to see if I could substantiate that.

I found a good article online.  I like how it starts by outlining three styles of ‘growth.’  There is the natural way of growth – where plants and animals (humans included, of course) grow quickly at the start but then ‘level off’ and growth in adulthood is more qualitative than quantitative (ie: people may develop skills and acquire knowledge, but they don’t grow taller, or much stronger, after about 21 years old).  There is a more ‘mechanical’ means of growth, which has to do with more power means more output.  And there is our compound interest style of growth where one can actually double their money at regular intervals.

It’s been said that the human race has, in many ways, ‘peaked.’  That is, we’ve reached certain limitations.  Some scientists have said that we’re at a generation, now, where the younger generation probably won’t outlive their parents; it’s even been said that our parents (the ‘baby boomers’ in North America) will have lived lives with more riches than the kids.

As a parent, I want the best for my child(ren).  I want them to have everything, and every opportunity, I had and more.  But I wonder about growth.  I wonder if it’s okay that we’ve come to some realizations about limits on growth.  I think it is okay.  I hope we can, as a culture, re-vision what success and growth is so that it doesn’t need to constantly be fed.

I admit that this is a challenge: the idea of having less.  I certainly like my things, and I collect stuff.  And our culture certainly has not warmed to the idea of doing with less.  We may talk about the environment and sustainability, but we live as though we don’t need to worry about it.  And our banks still promise all kinds of interest – free money (!) – if we bank with them.  …but all of that is based on an idea of growth that can’t go on.

To me, there’s a piece of me that says I want what my parents had and have.  But there’s a piece of me that’s starting to say, “how much can the world handle?”  Can I have what they have, and will there still be enough for my siblings, my friends, my global neighbours?  Can there really be enough to go around as it has until now?

Maybe we need to work more closely on that ‘natural growth’ curve, on not on the ‘exponential growth’ curve.  And, maybe we need to revisit how we do economics as well so that there aren’t such great disparities.  Otherwise, we (people) are likely to be the cause of our own demise.

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Posted on June 19, 2010, in Tyler's occasional web log. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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