“Getting beyond a Growth Economy”

“I meant no harm, I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads. I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads. I went right on biggering … selling more thneeds, and I biggered my money, which everyone needs.” From the Lorax by Dr. Seuss 1971

As of 2012 the human economy consumes 40% more Nature than is able to 'grow' back each year. In so doing we are making the story of the Lorax a most fitting, and sobering, parable of our time. This 'biggering' believes in the infinite ability of finite resources on a planet with limits. The only thing that makes this possible is denial and a culture of sleep walking.

Our appetite for food, energy and materials has never been greater. The last 50 years of human activity has consumed well over half of our planetary resources. The binge continues as we live lives larger than any lived before. Our global economy no longer fits within the very real boundaries of a planetary home. A slow motion ecological, and subsequently social catastrophe is in progress. We have reached a point in our history as a species that getting bigger is not going to make things better. In fact, it is quickly having the reverse effect.

Bill McKibben in his book Deep Economy uses the parable of two birds where MORE (or Bigger) and BETTER are living on a branch of the same tree. For much of the 20th century they were seen together as one in the same, MORE (BIGGER) = BETTER, but with the 21st century upon us, BETTER has flown off to another tree. Many now see them as very different 'birds'.

Bigger to Better is an opportunity to rethink and reimagine the important things in life. Just because we can do something, build something, or buy something … doesn't mean we should. In a world where too much is often not enough wisdom whispers restraint, self-control, a sense of sufficiency, or enough — that small is beautiful and that less can be more.

The pressing need to transition from Bigger to Better is no more conspicuous than when looking at the level of carbon dioxide in our ocean of air. The number that represents this gas's atmospheric concentration in parts per million is presently 393 ppm. Science tells us that we don't want to be above the number 350. But it's 393 and climbing 2 ppm per year. It is clear that 'Bigger' — and the number that grows as it grows is taking us in the wrong direction and fast.

Embracing a 'steady state economy' where we live within Nature's means will require a love, intelligence and sufficiency that needs practice. Wendell Berry's wisdom is that “we must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do … it is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make” By taking our future and that of our children seriously we will be motivated to begin living smaller lives that are BETTER.

GROWTH as an acronymn … Goofishly Reducing Our World To Havoc