Growth or life?

Growth or life? That’s the question from this new video from activist collective The Rules. “We can’t do both”, they argue. Not on a finite planet. “If we are going to survive the anthropocene, it will be because we create post-growth economies that allow us to thrive on this beautiful and generous planet we call home.”

Nonsense, some viewers will be thinking as they head for the comments box. Have some faith in human ingenuity, in the substitution of depleting resources, in the natural processes of creative destruction. With imagination, there are no limits we cannot overcome.

I say the lack of imagination runs the other way. Since we’re a creative species, why can’t we think of a better goal than an endless insatiable ‘more’? In countries that are already wealthy, economic growth is pointless and even self-destructive. What’s human ingenuity worth if it is used to self-destructive ends?

A postgrowth future is not a return to the past, nor is it self-denial. It’s about what we do after we have met our basic needs. Give us a goal worthy of our human imaginations. In the words of the fictional president Bartlett – ‘what’s next?’


  1. So we must take your last paragraph and come up with a wide variety of compelling visions of that this would be like, that will appeal to egoistical, status seeking people who currently dominate the political and economic scene in the developed world. Has someone done this already?

    1. A tall order! My forthcoming book is about that vision, but I don’t think it will appeal to the status seekers. I think the challenge is instead to nurture our better instincts, model a more cooperative way, and diversify the voices in politics. I don’t think we can ever build a fair and sustainable world based on dominance and ego.

      1. If you can’t appeal to all traits you will fail. Or end up with some kind of dictatorship. But there are little plenty of opportunities for dominance and ego in those, and already in the organisations that advocate steps in that direction.

          1. Our current market system allows rewards both the selfish and the generous, the egotistical and the self effacing. All have advantages and disadvantages so allow all a place without having to repress their true selves too much.

            You aren’t talking just about a campaign but the whole world so it has to allow a fair place for all, not just those with temperaments we like.

  2. It still doesn’t appeal to all human traits at once though, does it? Otherwise it would have universal approval, which it doesn’t. If your only measure of a good idea is that it pleases all of the people all of the time, then there’s never been a good idea in history.

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