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A commentary on Growth

by Martin Tye

We’re in trouble, …big, big trouble.

Most of you probably know this, but how many really know why?

What is the underlying cause?

And how do we fix things?

The cause should be obvious, but it lies well camouflaged behind a veil of propaganda and twisted statistics. The very thing which is causing our problems, is heavily promoted as the solution to those problems, by those with a vested interest in the continuance of that thing.

These interests are highly influential, short sighted and self-focused.

Obsessed with wealth and power, they don’t seem to care what they destroy, or who they walk over, to feed their ambitions, all the while pretending that this is what’s best for all.

This thing is their love child, their monster, and it is being ruthlessly imposed on our land and our people, to the detriment of all but a handful of stakeholders.

The thing I refer to, is of course, the ideology of endless economic growth- the creation of that particular class of people, to whom most of the benefits flow. This creation has become a cancer upon the earth, the disease which masquerades as the cure.

This poorly measured, poorly defined, dismal concept of “Growth” is accepted on faith. Its relevance to the challenges of today remains unquestioned. It is revered and trumpeted with almost religious zeal, by our politicians, economists and others who currently guide our destiny.

This system, this growthist ideology, is responsible for so many of our problems and each day these problems grow as it grows, becoming ever more difficult, and ultimately impossible, to solve, as the sheer scale of impacts continues to overwhelm all good intentions.

From climate change, to mass extinctions. From unaffordable housing, to uneconomic privatisations. From the widening gap between rich and poor, to the general deterioration in quality of life. From traffic congestion, to growing hospital queues.

All this and so much more, is evidence of growth’s failure to deliver for the people. Yet few see the correlation between growing economies, and growing problems, preferring to either pretend the problems don’t exist, or to simply dismiss them as acceptable sacrifices, on the altar of growth.

GDP growth measures only the total volume of money flowing through an economy and seeks to continually enlarge it. It refuses to properly account for costs. What a pathetic, narrow, short sighted concept we have embraced

Deeply flawed, it remains locked in as a “not negotiable” among our weak-minded leaders, lacking the intellectual and moral courage to face up to the need for change.

“This is how we’ve always done it”,

“Everyone knows this is the best way – right?”

…yeah right.

And so, fundamental change remains in the “too hard” basket,

“Let’s just pretend a few tweaks will do” remains the attitude.

“We must NEVER question the God of growth” they say.

As their system continues to devour our planet, and our daily lives, blame is always laid at the feet of ‘others’ rather than at the feet of the system itself.

A system which people repeatedly endorse at the ballot box.

Endless Economic Growth, as our prime goal, is way past its “use-by” date and is now, not only irrelevant to today’s challenges, but counterproductive and highly dangerous. We do live on a finite planet, we are massively into overshoot, and yet still our leaders seek bigger economies, above all else, and still the people support this path, via the major parties and their unwavering support for so-called “Growth”.

So where are the visionaries?

Where are those willing to fight for a fundamentally new way of doing things? For nothing but fundamental change will work. I’m hoping these visionaries, these fighters, lie here among us, because there’s no sign of them anywhere else!

Now we change.

Change should not be feared, it should be embraced! Change is like opening a window, and letting in the breeze, at a stuffy, stalemated boardroom meeting. Adaptability is a human strong point, we have proven this time and time again.

Rather than fear change why not embark on it with a positive attitude?

A time for renewal… a new system, new thinkers and new ways of doing things, new opportunities for those with creative minds and longer term visions. A time for renewed optimism, confidence in the future.

Suddenly we are all working towards a common vision! A vision we all share, and our potential feels limitless!

Redefining Growth is about changing what it means to grow. It’s about new goals and new ways to measure performance. Growth in ways that have no physical limitations, growth which will unlock our amazing potential.

Actions follow the things we measure and prioritise, so let’s start to measure and prioritise the right things, the things that really matter.

Here are just a few examples to get started:

Ecological restoration - not only a moral obligation, but now an economic and quality of life necessity. As they say “there are no jobs on a dead planet”. Our economy is a sub-set of our environment (not vice versa). Ecological restoration will underpin our recovery.

Quality of life - ultimately this should be the prime goal of any economic system. Let’s identify and measure the things the things that make up a good life: education, housing, health, family time, job satisfaction, job security & fair pay. The things that really matter to you and I. Growth redefined, with no limit to the possibilities.

Can this work? Of course it can!

Models such as the Steady State Economy, the Circular Economy and the Donut Economy, are already being developed by very smart people and organisations.

We’ve recently seen the New Zealand government openly question GDP growth, and start to replace it, with “Genuine Progress Indicators”… similar story with the state of Vermont in the USA. It’s already happening!

The goal of any economy is to meet the needs, and improve the lives, of the people it supports.

To progress sustainably over the long term (the now is brief, the future is long).

To get the balance right between incentivizing effort & distributing wealth fairly.

Simply measuring the size of an economy does none of these things.

Economic growth should be a means to a set of ends, not an end in itself. If it isn't achieving that set of ends, then we need to find a better means... to those ends.

I’m convinced that the redefining of growth is that better means.

So let’s get started, let’s seize the initiative.

Let it be said that this movement began with the one region, whose people had the vision and courage to tackle fundamental change.

Let us be that region. Let us be those people.

Let’s lead the way by redefining what it means to grow, and start creating a new future, a future we can all be proud of!


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