Humans must curtail economic growth to save the planet

  • by
The by-product of Western lifestyles and economic growth

I have said it a gazillion times and now the United Nations are saying it. It has produced a highly publicised and comprehensive report about Western lifestyles and how they must change in order to avoid catastrophe in terms of the extinction of 1 million species and in the long term even worse.

Note: I have integrated my thoughts with those as reported by the UN.

The by-product of Western lifestyles and economic growth
One by-product of Western lifestyles and economic growth. Photo: Greenpeace.

The nub of the matter is that humans are gradually (but it’s speeding up) destroying the planet because the world is modelled on what is called “economic growth”. There has to be economic growth because the world is constantly under competition, people-to-people, business-to-business, country-to-country et cetera. And therefore to win you have to grow and to grow you need more people and when you have more people you have more human activity and more destruction of nature. That’s the back story.

One recommendation, perhaps the central recommendation of the UN – and let’s not forget that this report was written by officials from 132 nations and based upon 15,000 scientific reports – is that governments should be “steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth”. Only if we stop growing economically and stop breeding as humans can we stabilise the planet and the damage we are doing to it. We can begin the healing process. At the root of all these problems must be human population growth. That has to be said even if it is highly politically incorrect.

However, the editor of The Times newspaper in his editorial says that this is incorrect. He says that it is wrong to consider changing the model of economic growth. He says that developed countries need to grow in a better way by which he means farming more efficiently, maximising the yield of each hectare by investing in precision farming and other technology rather than plundering ever more land.

He argues this on the basis that “practically everyone aspires to higher consumption”. He argues that environmentalists cannot vilify citizens who aspire to higher consumption. Economic growth should produce transformative changes he argues.

I argue that he is incorrect and that people need to completely change their lifestyles, their concepts of life, their aspirations and desires and start living in a way which is sustainable for the planet.

Overfishing. See below.

The destruction is massive. Here are one or two examples. Regarding the oceans, 55% of the ocean is subject to industrial fishing and the third of fish stocks are overexploited. Only 7% of fish stocks are plentiful enough to withstand extra fishing. Only 3% of the ocean is free from human pressure. 40% of the ocean is strongly affected by human pressure. Over the past 150 years live coral reefs have halved and this dire situation has worsened dramatically over the past 30 years due to raised water temperatures and the acidification of the oceans.

There are 400 dead zones near coasts because of run-off from fertiliser on farmland. Up to 400 million tonnes a year of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge is dumped into the water from factories annually. Yes, every year this vast amount of toxic mess, produced by humans, is dumped into the bloody ocean.

You can go down to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean and you will find an animal living there with plastic in its belly. It’s enough. It’s time to change. We have to get rid of the concept of economic growth totally and change our way of thinking.

The report identified five significant threats to wildlife. The biggest is the destruction of forest and grassland to convert them into farms. The next is excessive exploitation of animals and plants due to hunting, logging and fishing. The third is climate change and the fourth is pollution while the spread of invasive species ranked fifth.

Cat haters constantly blame the domestic cat, as an invasive species, on the destruction of birds and other wildlife. They are often shooters and hunters. They’re not tender or sensitive to animal welfare. They are the kind of people, arrogant myopic humans, who are blind to the destruction of nature and the significant role that they play in this catastrophe.

Note: There are 8 million species on the planet.