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Natural Living – Myth of perpetual growth!


We live in times where growth is considered sacrosanct. GDP growth, growth of revenues and profits for a company, higher and faster growth in animals we rear for slaughter, rapid growth in children, rapid growth in our plants and trees – every aspect of our life is measured in term of pace of growth. Higher the growth the better it is considered. We are told that rapid growth of GDP is a prerequisite for poverty alleviation and welfare measures, for our security, peace and social stability, and so on.


Growth phenomenon in nature – the cycle of life

Let’s examine what nature tells us about this growth phenomenon.

Every aspect of nature be it a tree, an animal, humans, go through a phase of birth, growth, stagnation and death. Universally there is no exception to this cycle of life – micro or macro, individual element or a systems combining multiple elements.

Now science understands that even the hyper macro systems like our solar system or the universe as a whole go through the same process; so we have the big bang as the birth, seemingly eternal expansion and which then is expected at some point to start the contraction, leading to the phase zero of the process.


What history teaches us

We can observe from history that civilizations and empires – be the Roman empire, the Ottoman empire, the British empire – all going through the same process. We have seen this process with the Soviet Union and are now witnessing the same process playing out with the American ‘empire’.

We have seen great companies which were once the rising stars of the economic world reach a plateau, stagnate and then wither away. Example are umpteen.

What nature tells us is that whatever is born or created or comes into being has to ultimately die or perish. That is the cycle of life. Eternal growth is simply not possible and doesn’t exist. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Why then do we think that our economies, our companies, have to keep growing forever?


Chasing infinite growth in a finite world

We live in a finite world. Earth and its resources are finite and not infinite. Be it the water which is the lifeline of all life on earth, or the minerals or the land or any natural resource you can think of – is finite.

But chasing our dream of infinite growth in a finite world we are extracting, plundering and exploiting these precious and limited resources blindly, ruthlessly and in an ever-expanding way.

And the results

The results are today visible to the naked eye – stark and clear

  • The forests are disappearing.

  • The fresh water systems as well as underground reservoirs are getting polluted, depleted and reaching crises point in most parts of the world

  • Minerals are running out with the last remaining reserves in hitherto untouched pockets of pristine forests or under deep oceans or under the melting ice – now being raided

  • Oceans are losing their life – with fish stock dwindling, coral reefs dying, large and rapidly expanding dead zones spring up and rapidly spreading at more and more places

  • Climate is getting hotter, extreme weather of all kinds – droughts, floods, cyclones, landslides, heat waves, resulting wild fires – becoming the new norm and increasing in both frequency and intensity.

  • Desertification is rapidly expanding

  • Mass extinction has been set in motion with us already being in the middle of the 6th mass extinction, this time driven by human actions

In short, nature is telling us loud and clear that we have reached (or perhaps surpassed) the limits to growth leading an all-round rapid deterioration and collapse of entire eco systems, climate cycles, soil life and biodiversity, water cycles and entire life on earth.

But we are still busy pursuing this madness, this mirage of perpetual growth.


Is there an alternative

What’s the alternative to this growth driven model? What is development? Should GDP growth be the criteria of success or progress? Or wellbeing and happiness should be our yardstick.

I will explore these topics in my next blog. Stay tuned!

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