By Mike Nickerson
Mike Nickerson is on the Board of the World Federalist Foundation. He advocates for sustainable world change and is the author of Life, Money and Illusion.
The 7th Generation Initiative is working with the WFMC to stimulate thinking about what a post-growth world might be like. Growth has been our goal for so many generations that we know little else, yet logic requires that we stabilize our impacts and reduce the worst of them.
Central to the problem is the measure of standard of living. Making more money so we can buy more stuff is central to the faith of the bottom line. Growing GDP is the same central tenet at the institutional level. Consider how deeply this sits in our culture, in our lives, in the policies of governments. Yet, if this aspect of our culture does not lose its power, we are doomed to overshoot Earth’s ability to provide resources and absorb our waste. Collapse would be inevitable.
Such a topic must be approached gently. Blame is out of place. Most World Federalists have spent their lifetimes immersed in the Growth paradigm. Growth was not too serious a problem until recent decades. At today’s scale of activity, however, it is at the root of climate change, species extinction, inflation and many armed conflicts. The expanding volumes of natural resources that we extract and the pollution that we produce, particularly CO2, are creating existential problems. While recognizing that some nations still need to expand their ability to provide basics for their people, globally, an alternative to growth is essential.
Technological solutions have a place. Investing in renewable energy can help, but even a complete shift to their use would leave other aspects of overshoot unaddressed. To reduce resource exploitation and pollution, we need to reduce consumption.
Belt tightening, however, lacks appeal. Pointing out what we can reclaim works better: more time for relationships, appreciation, service, sport, creativity, learning and the like. Because such life-based activities are uplifting for those engaged they can be represented by the single word, “fun”. One agreeable route toward a sustainable world can then be expressed as: More Fun, Less Stuff.
Choosing life-based activities over consumption-based ones is a start. For many of us it is too late to accomplish a thorough shift of life purpose, but to the extent that we give moral support to such change, we will do our part. This project aims to construct a semblance of the new order by collecting the glimmers of insight that arise from considering these thoughts: More fun, less stuff. If the voice of advertising fell silent, what would people want? The greenest dollar is the one not spent, and other materials available at: www.sustainwellbeing.net
To recreate our world, we must understand this fundamental change. Throughout history our growth was limited only by our ability to invest; the Earth seemed limitless. Today, the Earth’s limitations are evident in resource shortages and problems brought on by pollution. It is a very different situation. Think about it. Talk about it. Recognize in your heart that we are at a historic point where the entire human project has to shift from our youthful growth phase to mature responsibility.
Such changes cannot be made quickly. Much thought and inspiration will be needed to fully conceive a mature system. The work to follow could yet enable future generations to live fulfilling lives.