Posted by: righthandblink | January 8, 2017

Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth

Our home on this planet has a biosphere that is finite and fixed. It cannot grow. And if the economy is part of and utterly dependent on the biosphere, the attempt to maintain endless growth is an impossibility. Let me show you why.

Steady growth over time whether it’s the amount of garbage you make, the size of your city, the population of the world, anything growing steadily is called exponential growth. And anything growing exponentially has a predictable doubling time. That would apply to GHGs as well.

Here is an example of a system analogous to the planet. It’s a test tube full of food for bacteria. The test tube and the food are the planet. The bacteria are us. We’re going to add one bacteria cell to the test tube and its going to begin to divide every minute. That’s exponential growth. So at the beginning there is one cell. One minute there are two. Two minutes there are four. Three minutes there are eight. That’s exponential growth. And at sixty minutes the test tube is completely packed with bacteria and there’s no food left. So we have a sixty minute growth cycle.
       When is the test tube half full? And, of course, the answer is fifty-nine minutes. At fifty-nine minutes it is only half full but one minute later it is completely full. So at fifty-eight minutes it is twenty-five percent full. At fifty-seven minutes its twelve and a half percent full. At fifty-five minutes of a sixty minute life cycle its three percent full.
       So lets suppose at fifty-five minutes one of the bacteria says “hey guys I think we’ve got a population problem.” The other bacteria would say “Hey Jack what the hell have you been smoking. Ninety-seven percent of the test tube is empty and we’ve been around for fifty-five minutes.” They’d be five minutes away from filling. So bacteria are no smarter than people.

At fifty-nine minutes they’d be saying “oh my god, Jack was right. We’ve go only one minute left. What’ll we going to do now. We’d better give that money to those scientists. Maybe they can pull us out of this.” But the world, the test tube, is full. How can they possibly add any more food or space to that world. They can’t. They can no more add food or space than we can add air, water, soil or biodiversity to the biosphere.

This is not speculation or hypothesis. This is straight mathematical certainty. And every scientists will agree with this. We are already past the fifty-ninth minute. So all the demands for relentless growth is a call to accelerate down what is a suicidal path. And by focusing on growth, and more growth, we fail to ask the important question. Like: how much is enough? Are there no limits?

Over-population is the single most important problem related to climate change and also relates to the depletion of global natural resources.
       Over-population is an example of exponential growth. It took all of human existence to reach a population of one billion early in the nineteenth century. But in less than two centuries it shot almost straight up to reach past 6.8 billion. Each time the population of the planet doubled the people who were alive at that moment numbered more than all the other people who have ever lived. But now we are also living more than twice as long as people did in the past so our numbers and longevity alone mean that as the most numerous mammal on the planet we now have a very heavy ecological footprint. It takes a lot of land, air and water to support us and keep us alive.
       As such our planet was only designed to support a global population of about four billion (half of what there is currently). We need to establish a zero population mentality until the natural world can clean itself. Then, if we didn’t learn anything, we can start all over again.

At a recent meeting of all the province’s financial ministers with the federal government, they called for more growth in this country with money being pumped into “infrastructure” (roads, bridges, parking garages, etc.). The goal is obviously to kick-start the economy, but this tact will only contribute to more use of cars, and trucks, as well as the production of more GHGs. Those infrastructure funds could be used to fight climate change, help with the redesign and redevelopment of our cities; even with the money from the Mars project. We should be designing smaller cities, downsizing, so that we don’t need cars. We aren’t balanced.
       Are we really concerned about climate change? Just like a magician, on one hand we subsidize the oil industry but, on the other, we bring in carbon taxes and cap-and-trade taxes.

Problems that can be solved with money aren’t problems;
True problems are ones that cannot be solved with money.

Governments just keep on spending, but strangely, things don’t get any better. The only thing that gets bigger is the debt. Ever heard of the financial stresses that existed way back before Ontario was a province and Canada was a country: the “Panic of 1837″, the deep economic depression of the 1880s, and the worldwide economic downturn of 1896.

The Crisis is Real, however . . .

The Chinese symbol for crisis is made up of two parts, danger and opportunity. The opportunity comes from recognizing that we cannot continue on the same path that got us here. We have to reflect on how we arrived at this moment. Search for the root causes of the problem so that we can search for ways to avoid danger and discover new solutions that are truly sustainable.

§ § §

Mankind created the economy. If it doesn’t work, we have a responsibility to change it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

The biosphere which is composed of air, water, soil and biodiversity was created by God.

“You can’t solve a problem with the same intelligence that created it.”
– Albert Einstein


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